Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Internet Searches that Land on Chrisendom

'How can I win any argument against my wife'

A wise investment of internet research time.

Categorical Imperative of the Day

Publicly rebuke someone by simply listing a number of Bible verses (e.g. '1 Kings 12:1; 2 Cor 3:4; 2 Peter 1:4; Revelation 4:5; Amos 3:2'). Then give a condemning glare.

Paul’s negative view of the Law

For those who have e-mailed me recently, apologies for my lack of response. I'll try to get round to responding in the next day or two. I've been happily busy the last few days.

Anyway, how could a Jew like Paul say such negative things about the Law? Some resort to a Lutheran scheme. Others an apocalyptic framework. Others will argue that Paul's polemic is directed at Gentiles trying to adopt the law. Still others will claim Paul is given to rhetorical manipulation, and doesn't mind the odd contradiction or exaggeration.

I think the question needs to be reframed: How could a first century Jew not have such a negative view of the Law? After all, Moses himself prophesied (in the last few chapter of Deuteronomy), that Israel would not inherit the promised blessing through the Law, but rather its curse, i.e. exile. Standing in the first century, Paul's world was shaped by the clear fulfilment of these Mosaic prophecies. So how could a first century Jew, who knew all about the exile first of Israel, then of Judah, and later oppression under Roman rule, think anything else? Of course Paul speaks of 'the curse of the law'. It was historical fact.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eschatology in Popular Evangelicalism

A good litmus test for whether one has a good understanding of the biblical narrative and its relevance for exegesis is to ask one about their eschatology. If their eschatology is loopy, there is a good chance that they lack in their understanding of the significance of the wider biblical narrative.

I say this because I watched GODTV for a while today. On the channel I recently saw a sermon by Rick Warren and, I am not at all ashamed to confess (sorry Jim!), I was impressed. Today was a different matter. The guy who runs the channel told his (massive) audience about his discoveries in a new book by a certain Grant Jeffrey. Based on a few verses in Ezekiel, stirred together with another from Leviticus, a potent cocktail was developed to justify 1948 as the so-called third return from exile.

This was coupled with calls from a co-presenter to visit Israel, who made exclamations to the effect that he could not understand why Christians do not visit Israel and Jerusalem in particular. This was interrupted with further enthusiastic comment that God is present in a special way in Israel, and that just as God 'made a nation in a day' (referring to 1948), so God is going to suddenly fulfil all of his promises in your life 'during this season'! I was starting to get a little bit angry.

Apart from the obvious arbitrariness in the way Scripture was treated in these arguments, it was shocking that no knowledge of the significance of Maccabees was demonstrated. What is more, this kind of handling of Old Testament prophecy fails on at least two more points:

  • it does not recognize the context of the language and the Prophetic literature. Talk concerning the return from exile in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and in some of the Minor Prophets, is associated with such themes as the new covenant, the giving of the Spirit, the giving of a 'new heart', etc. These issues find the beginning of fulfilment in and through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. That is why Luke frames much of his 'ancient biography' by bringing Anna and Simeon into the narrative as Jesus is first bought the temple. They are waiting for the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem (compare the LXX of Is 40:1!). That is part of the point behind Matthews genealogy with which he frames his whole Gospel (See also 2 Cor 3).
  • The prophetic literature envisages the restoration of the tribes of Judah and Israel, i.e. all the 12 tribes. 1948 is not a literal fulfilment of this. The 10 northern tribes had long since been assimilated into Assyria, and so Jesus symbolically reconstitutes the 12 tribes of Israel by choosing 12 disciples.

And with this I do not mean to assert a replationist Israelology. That implies discontinuity where there is continuity and ignores, among other things, the image of ‘in grafting’ which Paul uses in Romans 11. I think it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Paul, when he speaks of all Israel being saved in Romans 11, envisaged a salvation waiting for ethnic Israel. In other words, God is not done with Israel. But these points aside, Christian Zionism needs to be challenged and those who do not like what we say need to responsed to the arguments without irresponsibly throwing the label 'anti-Semitic' around.

Blogroll updates

I've been meaning to add blogs to my blog reader for a while now, and I've come across many promising looking new blogs that I intended to add ... but never got round to it.

So I guess the best thing to do is simply ask: If you are not on my google reader then please leave a comment if you think I would like your blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to win any argument

I thought this was rather amusing. I just tried it on Anja, attempting to claim that an espresso before bed helps one to obtain deep sleep. I really fancied an espresso, but my rhetoric, even with mention of a Southern Journal of Sleep Pattern Science in my argument, failed to win the day.

Michael Halcomb look-alike

In light of this, I offer this:

Enough said.

CTRVHM Proverbs

"N.T. Wright is (very often) most likely right simply because he seeks to explain as much of the evidence as possible, and address as many of the possible questions together. This is what makes his own case concerning the historical Jesus, in Jesus and the Victory of God, so compelling"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Apostle Paul in a Sentence

In the near future I will write a short review of Michael J. Gorman's superb little book, Reading Paul. Until then, here is Gorman's attempt at 'Paul in a sentence'.

"Paul preached, and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story of Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centered on God's crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life, and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who respond in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ's death and resurrection and are (1) justified, or restored to right covenant relations with God and with others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord's body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities committed to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God's Son so that they may lead "bifocal" lives, focused both back on Christ's first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faith and (2) hope toward God and (3) love toward both neighbors and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation"

(Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2008. p. 8)

I couldn't help but feel he was cheating a bit by using such a long (German style) sentence! So here is a quick stab at an alternative (and shorter) suggestion:

'The Jew Paul was a Jesus Christ-obsessed and Christ-community-building canonical interpreter of Israel's Scriptures, proclaiming the Gospel of God to those living in an eschatologically charged time in the first century Mediterranean, and Roman Imperial, world'

A friend of mine, suggested using Paul's own self description:

'Chief of sinners'!

That is, of course, even shorter – and a bit clever! Perhaps we can trim even a few more words off:

'Not Jeremy'

Which would at least be factually true. But can we go even shorter? I think we can. At the risk of circularity:


Which tends to lack the explanatory power of Gorman's, but it is quicker to read.

What would be your 'Paul in a sentence'?

Nanos and The Polytheist Identity of the 'Weak'

Loren Rosen III has done us all a favour by drawing attention to Mark Nanos' new article, "The Polytheist Identity of the 'Weak,' And Paul's Strategy to 'Gain' Them: A New Reading of I Corinthians 8:1-11:1". His position, that the weak mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8 were not Christ-believers at all but polytheists, is an option I toyed with for a short while after thinking on 8:7. There Paul writes:

VAllV ouvk evn pa/sin h` gnw/sij\ tine.j de. th/ sunhqei,a e[wj a;rti tou/ eivdw,lou w`j eivdwlo,quton evsqi,ousin( kai. h` sunei,dhsij auvtw/n avsqenh.j ou=sa molu,netaiÅ

With the genitive eivdw,lou, sunh,qeia is usually translated as something like 'accustomed to' idols. So the NRSV has 'It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled'.

However, BDAG has as the first meaning of sunh,qeia the following:

'a relationship in which the participants are compatible because of shared interests, friendship, fellowship, intimacy'

This would gel rather well with the use of mete,cw and koinwni,a used with the genitive in 1 Cor 10 in a few places. Hence I tried to make the following translation work:

'But not in all is the knowledge, but some, being in fellowship with idols until now, eat food as food sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled'

This was part of a translation I worked on a few weeks ago. However, I dropped the idea given a few points that I will perhaps mention on the blog in a few days in more detailed critical reflection on Nanos' essay. Despite the fact that I think Nanos had a couple of good points, I was far less impressed than Loren Rosen.

By the way, there have been some hilarious comments to my previous post, so do give them a read if you haven't yet!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When asked ...

about whether certain historical events in the life of Jesus actually happened ...

Bultmann: 'We can't possibly know whether that bit happened or not, and the other bit?!!?! Of course it didn't really happen you twit! Light-bulbs etc. It really means something else, as you see when you demythologise it, and then discover the Christ-event addressing you'

Wright: 'Well yes it did happen, but it didn't mean what you think it meant. Rather, you have to see it in terms of the controlling story of the exile and restoration'

Borg: '1) Resistance is futile. 2) whether it happened or not is unimportant. What is important is the spiritual context in which you live and how this tradition nourishes you.'

Westerholm: 'What did Luther say about it? That's what happened'

Brian McLaren: 'Postmodernism. Not modernity. It's a conversation. Let me light a candle and give you and your environment a hug!'

Benedikt XVI: 'Ich verstehe Sie nicht. Sprechen Sie Latein?'

Bauckham: 'Eyewitnesses saw it. Even if their eyewitness memory is fallible, it is the theologically as well as historically appropriate witness to those events and their significance'

Greg Boyd: 'Well, it was the devil that done it, but Jesus defeated it in cosmic battle'

Jesus seminar: 'black, grey, pink'

Crossan: 'It might of happened in a peasant, cynic sort of way'

Perriman: 'I think it may have happened. But it was part of an eschatological drama that is not ours'

Crossley: 'Something happened: In a socially-scientific explainable sort of way'

Esler: 'Honour shame. Patronage. Limited good'

Dan Wallace: 'avmh.n le,gw u`mi/n'

Peter Enns: 'What the text says is entirely true as Christ is divine, and is entirely a human account in a "Word became flesh" type of way'

Carson: 'YES'

Hurtado: 'Yes, it happened. Then they worshiped Christ'

Gathercole: 'Dito'

Bauckham: '... and they included him in the divine identity'

Dawkins: 'OF COURSE NOT IDIOTS. Flying spaghetti plate, Zeus atheist, hell is an evil doctrine, child abuse etc.'

Francis Watson: 'It happened as a scriptural argument. It was a specific hermeneutical argument in dialogue with the scriptures and other interpretative traditions'

Miroslav Volf: 'Let me give you an embracing hug'

Benny Hinn: *Screams "TOUCH!" into a microphone* I fall over.

Ehrman: 'The truth got lost in the scribal tradition and in all of the many variations'

Martyn: 'It happened, but not like you think: It happened in a world invading apocalyptic kind of way'

Bird: 'Yes, with a restored Israel around Christ it was an anticipation of God's salvation as it would then reach the rest of the (Gentile) world'

Dan Brown: 'It didn't happen like that. That is part of a global conspiracy to keep you in ignorance. Davinci left hints'

Gorman: 'In a participatory, cruciform, anti-empire, non violent type of way, it happened'.

Michael Jackson: '*grabs groin and moonwalks. Grunts EH!*'

Bockmuehl: 'What is its Wirkungsgeschichte?'

Jim West: *Quickly puts on a T-Shirt with "I'm a card carrying minimalist" written on it* 'NO! And what is more, if you insist it did and think you can prove it, that is nothing but unbelief!'

Chris Tilling: 'For any of the named above who happen to read my blog from time to time, apologies for my insolence. The devil made me do it'


Hordes of systematic theologians: "We will give the whole question a half-hearted nod, then pretend it doesn't really matter and carry on talking about abstractions like zim zum and such like"

Barth: Cheerfully adds "Welcome to the strange new world of the Bible!"

Witherington: Writes a book about it in 3 days.

and McLaren: Endorses it.

The Welsh: Speak in a funny language about it.

Wright (again): 'I forgot to add: Jesus is Lord, and Caesar isn't. As this dovetails nicely, in a pincer movement, with precisely the point Bird made in the comments.'

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two Historical Jesus Scholars and their Movie Twins

Wright – Real Genius (1985)

Bultmann – Inbred Rednecks (2001)

(in honour of West's recent opining)

How they get here

Had a few searches land on my blog recently.

A couple have searched for 'real cock' and landed here! Not sure what they mean (something about poultry I suppose), but I hope you found what you were looking for.

Today I had 'Jesus Tilling' from Denmark.

Well, thanks! In correspondence from a publishing house, also today, I was addressed as 'Hi Christ'.

Perhaps I should be getting a messiah complex, or is there one seriously big call on my life that I haven't yet discovered?

Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus

Jim West drew attention to the forthcoming publication of the Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus today. It will be released on the 18th of March 2008. Though I contributed an article to the encyclopaedia (notice that word was spelt properly this time!), I was rather shocked at the price they are asking for it. I was even more shocked that there is an article on Rudolf Bultmann! Why?! It is the encyclopaedia of the historical Jesus, not an encyclopaedia of the historical numpkins.

*Waits for West's wrath to haemorrhage*

The future of Christian Universalism debates

I don't believe that the debate about Christian Universalism can circumnavigate scripture, and solve the issues with recourse to systematic theology. After all, systematic theology at its heart is (or should be) all about exegesis. However, no Christian Universalist with an ounce of honesty would deny that there are 'problem texts' for his or her position (as indeed there are for the traditional view). Hence, the debate about Universalism cannot be resolved merely in terms of systematic theology or exegesis alone. Interested parties in the debate must negotiate their positions in terms of a big picture mixture of hermeneutical, biblical Wirkungsgeschichte, exegetical and theological concerns. The days of quoting this or that scripture, or making recourse to this or that theological axiom – as if that settled the debate – are long over.

SPCK’s The Evangelical Universalist

SPCK contacted me today to inform me that The Evangelical Universalist is now out in Europe (originally published by the great folk at Wipf & Stock). Amazon are doing a deal at the moment offering 34% off, bringing it to a very reasonable £8.57.

Oliver Crisp, Lecturer in Theology at the University of Bristol, has written the following new endorsement for the back cover:

"Here is an attempt to think through the implications of the doctrine of universalism that really tries to tackle the considerable difficulties posed by the biblical material, as well as traditional theological and philosophical arguments. Clear, well-written and engaging – MacDonald's charitable reading of his opponents is a model of fairmindedness. Those in the evangelical constituency will need to do some hard thinking in order to show why one cannot be both an evangelical and a universalist"

If anybody wants more information, dash a comment off and I'll perhaps, permission allowing, upload the new front and back cover along with the press release.

I'll be honest, many Christian universalists (though not Gregory) make me feel uneasy. Gregory MacDonald, I'm quite sure, would rather have people wrestle and struggle with his arguments than have people jump on a universalist bandwagon. We are on holy ground with this theme so let us tread carefully, prayerfully and discerningly. And The Evangelical Universalist will help you negotiate your way through the debates with grace.

For those interested in a lucid and word-efficient defence of the traditional evangelical view of hell and such like, at least in terms of Paul, I recommend a read of the relevant pages in Thomas R. Schreiner's Paul, apostle of God's glory in Christ: a Pauline theology (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2001).

Can anyone recommend any recent works defending a traditional view?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The CTRVHM Humbling Ministry

As a special Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM) service this year, I am excited to announce that we are offering a revolutionary programme to sort out problems you may have with those around you who suffer from that most troublesome of sins: arrogance and pride.

This really is an exciting moment in Christian ministry history, as this year we unveil our entirely new yet tried and tested methods of character change. Never again will you have to worry about that certain person p-ing you off because of that harmful arrogant word, or fear those inner convulsions generated by that proud flicker in the offenders eyes.

By lending you, our customer, a strong Christian hand, we can forever help those who struggle with pride issues, and thus those around them.

With a baseball bat, balaclavas and a surprise attack, we will leave your client on the floor in a bleeding pile of messed up fleshy pulp. We will then leave him or her alone for a while to think about things: the perfect opportunity to forever reconsider those exalted images of oneself.

The ministry motto is 'It's kind of like an intervention'

There are a few legal disclaimers that need to be finally approved, but once the formalities are out of the way we look forward to beating the living crap out of your clients, and to help make the world a better place.

The Mash-em-up-Real-Bad team has been in training for a few months now, and will be led by a ministry member who prefers to remain anonymous, but I will be present supervising the first 'ministry times' to make sure that all teeth have been appropriately removed with the 'Sanctifying Bat'.

As this branch of CTRVHM ministry took a little inspiration from my Catholic brother, Josh McManaway, we wanted to insure that there will be a short ceremony before the 'Sanctifying Bat' is applied to the given sinner. It is hoped that an infusion of sacramental grace may be transmitted into the offender in equal proportion to the removal of snot from his or her face during the ministry session.

For the first month of ministry delivery, we are also offering an experimental package deal whereby you, our flock, can try out the methods first hand. We call it the BeattheshitoutLITE (TM). On your request, and after the submission of an appropriate 'love donation', we will send someone over to the house of the given offender to seriously insult them. And their mum.

We, of course, operate anonymously, and will even leave a few "How To Be a Proper Christian" tracts scattered around.

For those interested in obtaining either our package deal or the full ministry mash, please contact me by leaving a note in the comment box, leaving the details of the offender, and by paying an appropriate 'love donation' (be careful not to offend God here) through purchases on my Amazon Wish List.


I’m very tired tonight so expect gibberish posting. Still, I had fun writing this and the next which is the main thing, I suppose. But I’d better stop typing here because it is a post heading, after all, and not a paragraph of prose.

Do check out the discussion in the previous post. The tag team debate seems pretty uneven at the moment; blood and broken noses are abound. It looked like Phil had Andrew in an unbreakable wristlock. Then the crowd astonished, Andrew Pulveriser Perriman pulled a swerve and had Phil Slasher Sumpter on his back in pain. The tag team were lobbing grenades in and it really isn't clear who was left standing after the smoke. And just in: Phil the Slasher is pulling off a legendary WFF superman comeback. Somebody needs to stop this fight before it gets seriously messy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Perriman responds to my review of his book

The following comes from private e-mail correspondence with Andrew about his book, Otherways, which I reviewed recently here. I asked for his permission to publish the following honest response as a separate blog to facilitate discussion, especially as a couple of commentators to my review were quite negatively disposed towards his project. And he makes a couple of good points below, especially about the necessary dialogue between scripture and tradition which many of us, in practice, reduce to tradition's monologue.

"Thanks. It's a great review.

The point about valuing tradition is well taken. I guess in the back of my mind there is always a more respectful dialogue with tradition going on that doesn't always show up in the written polemic. And it's not as though there's a shortage of people out there willing to defend traditional formulations of theology! But I think what the parable is trying to address is simply the problem of over-familiarity. For there to be a genuine dialogue between scripture and tradition scripture must be seen for what it really is, independent of tradition as far as possible - otherwise it's a dialogue heavily weighted in favour of tradition.

My problem with the trinitarian statement has to do more with the problem it creates for reading the New Testament, because inevitably it gives the impression that deep down this is how scripture constructs its understanding of God. I think that's what I was getting at by the distinction between 'theologically necessary' and 'normative'. It may arise out of our reading of scripture, but all sorts of problems arise, it seems to me, if we then reverse the process and allow our reading of scripture to be shaped by our later theological formulations.

The other problem, of course, is that my outlook as a New Testament theologian is much too narrow! I need to catch up on some historical theology. I'll also look out for Bockmuehl's book.

I hope this doesn't sound too defensive. I am delighted with the review and really appreciate you taking a publication of this nature seriously."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"For us": Why, if Wright is right, so is Bultmann

'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us' (Gal 3:13)

A great question was posted on the Wrightsaid discussion group today about Wright's interpretation of the 'us' in the sentence above.

According to Wright, the Torah brought the Jewish people curse, namely exile. 'Because the Messiah represents Israel, he is able to take on himself Israel's curse and exhaust it' (The Climax of the Covenant, 151, italics mine). Because of this, the covenant blessing (specifically the gift of the Spirit) is made available to Gentiles. So Christ dies directly for Jews only; indirectly for Gentiles.

While this post won't attempt to analyse the plausibility of this claim in broad terms, my thoughts were stirred as I worked on my exegesis of 1 Corinthians 8 today. In 8:7-12 Paul writes:

'It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled ... For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.' (NRSV)

That Paul is speaking of Gentile Christian believers is clear (Gentile Christians: 8:7 'accustomed to idols
until now'. Believers: 8:11 'believers'; 8:12 'brothers' – or 'family' in the inclusive language of the NRSV). Yet Paul is clear that Christ died specifically for them. There is no 'I mean indirectly', and to import it into this text is rather arbitrary (for more along these lines, cf., off the top of my head, the matter of partaking in the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 10 and 11).

Now this could be taken as evidence that puts a question mark against Wright's reasoning (Jim West nods vigorously).

But if not, if Wright's reading of Gal 3:13 is accepted, such evidence in 1 Cor 8 is of hermeneutical significance. It means that Paul universalised a historically contingent event that originally indicated only death for Jews. It means Paul directly applied a story about Jewish exile and restoration to Gentiles in Corinth, without batting an eyelid, and without concerning himself with that narrative in his reasoning. Paul wasn't concerned about the historical contingency or specificity of the event, but rather with its emerging theological breadth, which sundered it from an isolated anchorage to its immediate historical concern (Jim West gives a slightly bewildered nod).

In other words, if Wright's reading is upheld in light of such evidence, doors open wide to appreciate the scriptural precedence and wisdom of something akin to Bultmann's project.

To formulate things with a slight dose of provocation: If Wright's exile and restoration reading in Gal 3 is right, so was Bultmann. :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pimp My Liturgy - 04 (Special Incense Edition - 1)

The 'Botafumeiro Incense Swing' for Evangelicals

While holy incense is not big in the Evangelical movement, my hope is that this post, and the next, will recover something of this wonderful high church tradition for my fellow evangelical brethren. I was inspired watching the following video of the famous 'Botafumeiro Incense Swing' in Spain:

One of the commentators on this video on Youtube, a DavidGPardue, says:

'The Botafumeiro knocked the priest who caught it on his rear end in 2004 ... I saw it happen. That censer is dangerous, hot and heavy — it is made from solid sterling silver. He did not seem hurt when he got up'.

Right. Nothing like risking life and limb for a bit of jolly good Botafumeiro swinging. It is, after all, in the service of the Lord.

Wikipedia reveals that there is quite a history of Botafumeiro accidents:

'There have been a number of accidents that occurred during the swinging of the Botafumeiro over the years. Apparently at one time, the Botafumeiro was attached to the rope with a hook which sometimes became disconnected. One of the most renowned accidents took place during a visit of Princess Catherine of Aragon. She was on a journey to marry the heir to the English throne in 1499 and stopped by the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. While it was being swung, the Botafumeiro flew out of the cathedral through the Platerias high window. No one was reported to have been injured on this occasion. The ropes and other devices securing the Botafumeiro have also failed on May 23rd, 1622, and more recently in 1925 and July of 1937 ... [when] hot coals were spilled on the ground'.

Now, time to get the calculator out for some maths. A bit of internet research informs me that the Botafumeiro reaches speeds of an astonishing 105 mph (or 47 m/s). Remembering Newton's laws, at an astonishing weight of 160 kilograms this means that a Botafumeiro in the face might lose you your ... face. And head, along with everything attached to it. Still, it would at least decorate the church walls in an interesting hint of brain. But we can be much more precise:

Let's ask some sensible questions. How far would an unlucky worshiper be propelled were the Botafumeiro to connect with his centre of gravity? The momentum (mass x velocity) of the Botafumeiro comes to roughly 7520Ns at maximum speed. As force x time = momentum, a half second contact with the thurible would exert 3760 Newtons of force on the churchgoer. Remembering that v = u + at and F = ma, we can work a few more matters out. If this hapless worshipper was a rather sturdy adult male, weighing approximately 90 kg (or 200 pounds), then he would be accelerated, by the Botafumeiro, at 41.7 meters per second per second.

Let's assume this man was stationary, kneeling during prayer, when it hit. This would mean a contact of half a second would set the man flying at a velocity of 20.88 m/s (that is almost 50 mph. 0-50 mph in half a second!). Which further means that our praying saint would travel a clean 100 meters in just 4.8 seconds! ("Dear God, draw me closer to youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu")

It would probably be worth keeping your eyes open during prayer times in this church.

I wonder how many 200 lbs choir singers it would take to stop our smoking Botafumeiro, in 2 seconds? I leave that for our resident scientists to work out, but I'm guessing that it would need to plough through a row of quite a few 200 pound men in order to reach a state of rest. That would probably wipe out an entire choir.

Hang on, on second thoughts it is quite simple, isn’t it? Think of Newton’s Pendulum. In order to bring the thurible to a stop, you would need 160 kg of men (or two 176.4 lbs men). They would of course themeselves fly off at 41.7 meters per second per second, and traverse (in a vacuum) the length of two football pitches (about 230 meters) in about 4 seconds.

Wiki continues: 'It costs about 250€ for each thurible "performance" at the cathedral ... The Botafumeiro produces large volumes of smoke. This is in accord with the well-known saying in religious circles, "More incense, less nonsense."'

Indeed, it is all about the smoke, as we shall see in Pimp My Liturgy - 05 (Special Incense Edition - 2).

To learn how to swing the Botafumeiro, do check out this great interactive flash animation.

So, Evangelical community, why not consider introducing the Botafumeiro Swing into your churches. Think what fun it would be to have a speeding 160kg mass of potentially murderous and heavy, scorching hot metal fly around your Sunday services, dispensing enough incense to get all the smoke detectors within a 1 mile radius beeping. Surely revival would quickly follow.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book Review: Otherways by Andrew Perriman

My sincere thanks to Andrew Perriman for a copy of his new book Otherways: In Search of an Emerging Theology (purchase also on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).

In many ways, this is an unusual book, at the same time as being rich, thought-provoking, unsettling and encouraging. Perriman has essentially selected posts from http://www.opensourcetheology.net/, and so to understand this book one needs to understand that webpage. As he explains on his webpage, 'The purpose of this site is to assist the development of an emerging theology for the emerging church'. It is an interactive discussion-based webpage which preferences 'openness, intellectual integrity, grassroots collaboration, and contextual relevance with respect to theological method' (7).

The 59 essays selected for publication in this book have, for the most part, been left in their original form. They are ranged according to 'a loose thematic development from an initial consideration of what constitutes "emerging church" or "emerging theology" through matters of hermeneutics and explorations of the biblical narrative ..., to a more general considerations of theology, community and mission' (7).

This makes the book rather difficult to review as it consists in so many mini essays. However, what I can do here is to give an impression of the sort of material one encounters and the trajectory and starting point of the thought as it is presented in the essays.

The first thing to appreciate about Perriman's style in these essays is that, although it is not documented with footnotes as one would expect in a normal equivalent book, it is an incredibly rich depository of living and creative thought. I found myself having to put the book down regularly as I tried to digest the content of just a couple of pages. There is more material in this book to provoke thought that in almost any other book on emergent theology simply because of its form as a collection of mini essays, each with its own succinctly put (and often provocative) theses. So, for example, in essays seven ('Cracking the code') Perriman discusses the nature and effect of social discourse in modern Evangelicalism (what he calls 'the Code'), and examines what it does, how it works, and what is wrong with it. That particular essay can be found under http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/63. Quite a lot discussed in such a short space and in everyday language! I regularly found myself, while reading the various essays, enjoying those precious 'ah-ha!' moments, as I once mentioned here.

There is much more in the book that I could not possibly summarise in this short book review. It contains a number of its own book reviews, critical interaction with N.T. Wright, debate concerning the meaning of 'gospel', homosexuality, atonement, hermeneutics, debate about certain statements of faith, much that concerns Perriman's own eschatological convictions, etc. Again and again one is confronted with crisp, provocative and insightful thinking. It is a tremendously rich book. The Christmas Pudding of Emerging Theology books! Eat too much at once and you'll get indigestion.

Plenty will wonder, of course, whether it is worth buying a book that is simply a collection of short essays that one can find online. All I can say is that I personally prefer to have a book in front of me that I can underline and write in the margins of, and this is why I believe the electronic age will never replace a good old book! What is more, much of the best material, Perriman notes in his introduction, is actually found in the comments of the essays and not in the essays themselves. This means that if one stuck to the webpage, one could get lost in the details without obtaining the general overview and scope of thought that the book offers.

Given the nature of the book I cannot interact with every point of potential disagreement in this review, but I can at least share one thought that occurred to me more than once. The very first of his essays, Paths in the forest, is a parable. He starts off:

'Scripture is like a forest. As people explore the forest, they tend after a while to follow the paths that others have taken, simply because it's easier. So the paths get well-worn and eventually become the definitive and orthodox way of getting around the forest. In fact the paths have become so well established that people have produced maps, which has led to the phenomenon of people staying at home with their maps and never feeling the need to venture into the forest at all ... It would be nice, in a way, if we could leave the forest alone for a while, let the undergrowth regrow, let the old paths disappear, and then start again, so that we come to know the forest for the first time' (9)

This desire is rather symptomatic of Perriman's project, one which seeks to vigorously critique received beliefs. However, it is here that I am not convinced Perriman is at his most nuanced. We simply have paths in a forest and cannot let them overgrow anymore, and I think there should be a respect for these paths, and a hope that God has helped create them as he has guided his people through the Spirit. Tradition, I dare to hope, deserves our 'respect and deference', even if not 'our slavish adherence' (cf. Reformed and Always Reforming, by Roger Olson, p. 45). Perriman's expressed desire is perhaps necessary for those who need to blaze trails of reformation (through re-engagement with Scripture), but eventually, if a robust and historically 'thick' theology is to emerge, these paths need to be lovingly navigated, and not left to the tide of undergrowths regrowth. They are there to stay, thanks to, I hope in part, the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it is precisely the Wirkungsgeschichte of the biblical texts that may provide a way forward in this present time of confusion about the bible, its place in theological dialogue, and the future of both (cf. the first couple of chapters of Markus Bockmuehl's brilliant, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study)

His, for want of a better word, brash dealing of traditional Christian beliefs comes to the fore from time to time. In a friendly critique of the Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith, he writes in response to '1. The one true God who lives eternally in three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit':

'I still have problems with explicitly trinitarian statements of the being of God. No doubt they are theologically justified and necessary, but should they really be made normative in this way, given such prominence in a statement of faith? They are hard to account for biblically and if nothing else, we lose something of the narrative dynamism of Father, Son and Spirit as they are encountered in the Bible. If we make this sort of abstract and theoretical statement normative for faith in God, what sort of faith will result?' (42-43)

Theologically justified and necessary but not normative? Perhaps he has kept the appropriate tension. Perhaps things are not lopsided. But this makes me feel like Perriman's project runs the risk of neglecting the interpretive tradition of the church, and its central creedal statements. Sure he refers to explicit statements in the bible, but I find this EA formulation a crisp expression of historic Christian faith, and one I would argue is consistent with, even if not explicit in, the scriptures. Perriman's boldness here, as well as his rather 'thin' and church-tradition-distrusting set of '(tentative) beliefs' in chapter 9 (http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/309), makes me wonder if he is keeping the necessary tensions in balance.

But these points are simply to provoke discussion, not to wave a condemning conservative finger at Perriman's project. Points like this in Perriman's work give me the most to chew on, and I for one always enjoy chewing (and learning in the process). This book is a great introduction to the sort of questions being raised in the emerging movement, and of one strand of emerging theological thinking's answers to these questions. Of course, it is an 'open source' theology, which can only be properly appreciated by reading through the webpage itself, and the offerings of its various contributors.

As always, Perriman is unsettling, deeply thought provoking, encouraging and controversial all in one!


Monday, January 07, 2008

What Would Jesus Write?

I am glad to inform you that I have found a few books allegedly written by none other than our Lord and Saviour. So, at least, this is what Amazon informs us. He has written numerous works, actually.

This one, a solid 425 pages, is called The "I Am" Discourses, Published in the Saint Germain Series (Hardcover). He co-authored, Amazon tells us, with Lotus Ray King. Let's face it, Jesus Christ is going to sell even more books than the Pope or Wright put together. Surely the people at Saint Germain are rubbing their hands. A bonus is that it is also written in English, which really goes to show that Jesus and Moses really did speak (KJV) English. Of course, this also solves the whole Johannine 'problem', and the authorship of the Gospel.

While on the subject of authorship, it seems the whole authorship of the NT problem is also solved:

THE NEW TESTAMENT of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. Translated out of the Greek. Being the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1881 (Hardcover) by Jesus Christ (Author).

Then there is The Word of Life (Hardcover) by Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Fair enough.

Perhaps most surprising is that Jesus has co-authored with none other than Terry Eagleton.

The Gospels (Revolutions Series) (Paperback) by Jesus Christ (Author), Giles Fraser (Editor), Terry Eagleton (Introduction)

I can't say I would like to be Jesus' editor. I would feel, well, sinful sending him back the proofs with corrections. 'Correct this, Jesus' – and lightning strikes. This one, I'm guessing, will clear up all of the Gospel discrepancies, and pave the way for a proper harmonization. Exciting times!

I wondered what else Jesus Christ could write, seeing as he has written so much already (indulge me):

  • How to be Like Me, and Why You Need to Know
  • Yes, Pauline Christology is a divine-Christology. And the Trinitarians were Right all Along.
  • Peter I knew, Wright as well, but who is Bultmann?
  • The Truth About Q-Communities Exposed. I never heard of them.
  • Yes, Bauckham is Right. Often.
  • Barth, Jüngel, Benedikt, Aquinas, Anselm, etc. were/are all pinhead theologians. Let me tell you the Truth.
  • Why Dunn's commentary on Galatians is the Best
  • Who will Win the Superbowl/World Cup for the next 200 years
  • Did Moses Really Speak KJV English?
  • If the Minimalists were Right, I wouldn't be here Writing this Book and would simply vanish in a demythologised puff of hermeneutically suspicious smoke.
  • What Would Jesus Do? The Answer Book.
  • Ten Thousand Reasons To Give my Friend, Chris Tilling, a Job When he Completes his Doctorate

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Problem Text for those who associate the Parousia with the destruction of Jerusalem?

'Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"' (John 21:22-23)

  1. I believe the majority of scholars (though I am no expert on John), argue that the Gospel of John was written after the destruction of the Temple.
  2. If Bauckham is right then the author of John is a certain 'John the Elder' - a man who died after the destruction of the Temple.

If these points are correct, and admittedly point 2 may well not be, then it is hard for me to avoid the conclusion that the rumour that spread was not simply 'John would not die' as this is hardly even a possible inference from 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?' Rather, the rumour would likely be that John would live until the coming of the Lord, and would therefore 'not die'.

But John didn't live until the coming of the Lord – even though he had experienced the destruction of Jerusalem. Ergo, so this argument goes, the parousia should not be confused with the destruction of Jerusalem, at least in John.

Now in defence of the view that the parousia is to be directly associated with the destruction of Jerusalem view: Is it possible that Jesus wanted to simply indicate that John, unlike Peter, would not die before the destruction of Jerusalem and that this was misunderstood to mean John would not die at all (but be transported directly into heaven like Elijah and Enoch, perhaps)?

I don't know too much about John's Gospel, so your wisdom is appreciated. What do you think makes the most sense? Or is an entirely different explanation more likely?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Some Awards

  1. Best Newcomer Biblioblog Award goes to Nick Norelli. He's almost as prolific as West. Though he likes rap. So ...
  2. Worst Music Taste of Bibliobloggers Award goes to Nick Norelli. And an honorary runner-up mention must go to Ben Myers.
  3. Most Heretical and Boringly Brain-Rot Inducing Biblioblog Award of 2007 goes to ... No. I shouldn't say. *Coughs* We *Coughs* st.
  4. Most Handsome, Most Inspiring, Educational and Cleverest Biblioblogger award of 2007: I'm too modest to say ... but I want to thank my fans, my wife, my friends ... it's me.
  5. Funniest Biblioblogger Award goes to Steven Harris. I can't stop laughing at him.
  6. Most Theologically Suspect Biblioblogger Award goes hands-down to John Hobbins. (John, what did you expect for that?)
  7. Blogger Most Likely to be Confused with a Criminal Because of the Way He Looks Award goes to Jason Clark.
  8. Most misrepresented scholar of 2007 goes to Bishop Tom Wright for suffering numerous dubious critiques of his works. I think some of the negative feelings are there (from the right) because of either an unhealthy dogmatic conservativism, or (from the left) because some people are simply jealous of the good Bishop, jumping on an anti-Wright band-Wagon because it makes the critic look more intelligent.
  9. Most thought-provoking book of the month award goes to Andrew Perriman for Re:Mission. Biblical Mission for a post-biblical church. Crikey-o-Riley, what a book. If you are conservative, then it's regular-change-of-underpants time. It made me feel like I was on the receiving end of a new (early 20th century) 'consistent eschatological' slap around the cheeks, a movement discussed nicely in Wright and Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, by the way.
  10. Biblioblog That I Visit Most Often Award. 1st: Mine (vanity), 2nd: West's (perhaps it is masochistic curiosity).
  11. Most Prolific Biblioblogger Author of Books. Michael F. Robo-Bird.
  12. Best SBL Room Mate of 2007 Award goes to Jim West (who, aside from being a really top-chap - but don't tell him I said so - also wins the Most Mini-Minimalist Award)
  13. SBL Room Mate Most Likely to Trim Their Verrucas with a Cheese Grater Award. West.
  14. Finally, the Most Coolest Nicest Dude award goes to my friend David Vinson for sending me numerous books in the last couple of months, including:

    Original Selfishness: Original Sin And Evil in the Light of Evolution
    by Daryl P. Domning and Monika K. Hellwig
    Reformed and Always Reforming by Roger Olson
    God of the Possible by Greg Boyd
    Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns
    The God who Risks by John Sanders
    The Openness of God by Pinnock, Rice, Sanders etc.
    The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd
    And Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools, ed. Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch

    Thanks a million, David!!

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I returned to Germany yesterday after a very lazy Christmas and New Year holiday of eating, sleeping, reading, more eating and more sleeping.


  1. At the risk of rather blatant self-promotion, do see my previous post. I want as many people ‘in’ as possible, giving that Aaron bloke a seriously significant Christian kick-in.

  2. Chris Brady (who is hairy enough to make me wonder if he is the missing link between Homo sapiens and our evolutionary ancestors) has done a superb job with the 25th Biblical Studies Carnival.

  3. James Crossley has written a helpful follow up to my earlier short post on the momentum of the so-called 'third quest'.

  4. Jason Goroncy asks 'Will the Love of God Finally Triumph?'

  5. Jim West joins the ranks of the totally depraved by posting slander and practicing necromancy.

  6. Oh yes, West also thinks he has found The Very Best Modern Translation of the Bible in Any Language. It’s German. Of course, there is a problem with Jim’s reasoning, as he fails to take account of the fact that German is sometimes not the nicest of languages from an acoustic perspective. I.e. it can sound demonic (at least in the old war movies), and is thus certainly not the raw material of a seriously good bible translation. Don't believe me? Flip to any German internet radio channel, wait for the discussion times and close your eyes. See how easy it is to picture hoards of cursing demons stubbing each other’s toes?

  7. Unless, I ought to add quickly, the German person speaking is my ridiculously beautiful wife, my wife’s family, colleges or any of our friends or acquaintances, present or future etc.
  8. OK, if I want my wife to kiss me again, I ought to admit that English can sound quite horrible too.

  9. While on the bible translation subject, there are some totally unsubstantiated rumours (started by me) that Wright's translation of the NT in his 'for everyone' series will be gathered together to make a complete new translation: namely the 'Wright Official Translation And Totally Inspired Text' (the WOTATIT).

  10. I successfully salvage the tone of this post after the previous sentence by denying that I wrote it.

Contest: Complete the Sentence

"The Church is chronologically prior to the Christian canons of scripture ..."

therefore ... ?

but ... ?

(I'm thinking of the old church tradition / scripture debates)

The author of the best response gets to beat the living crap out of Aaron Ghiloni for me, for this piece of unprovoked malevolence. The runner up gets to help out the winner. The losers get to cheer from the ringside when things get messy.