Friday, February 29, 2008

Dethroning VISA

Have you seen Fight Club? If not, I'm sorry, I'm about to ruin the ending for you!

The movie centres around one man's existential angst. He is seeking salvation from the doldrums of working for an insurance company so he can service his credit card debt, which has been racked up by having to have everything in his apartment "Ikea perfect". He meets an enigmatic stranger and finds salvation in this "Fight Club" scenario, which basically is about a bunch of blokes getting together and rediscovering what "makes them men" (aka beating the living daylights out of each other). The fight club concept grows and groups form all over the US. At the end of the movie, the fight clubs have formed a quasi-urban-guerilla-terrorist movement, and they seek to bring salvation to the US, by unseating the culprit behind the humdrum of life - slavery to the Credit Card companies. The final scene of the movie is where you see all the credit card companies simultaneously blowing up across the skyline.

This is a rather graphic illustration of what happened in my life when Jesus saved me. Up until that point I was in the grip of 'Visa' with an unsustainable debt. I placed a lot of faith in Visa, and regularly gave offerings (interest) of $150 a month to keep the religion going. I believed that "in case of emergency" Visa would bail me out, Visa would save me. But in the day-to-day Visa was just a comfort, and a way to participate in worship of the other gods of the secular world, "at no cost".

The bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). In the greek there are two words for temple, and the one used in this context more particularly means "Holy of Holies". The Holy of Holies was where in the OT, the ark of the covenant was housed. The ark represented God's presence amongst His people - now this function is taken over by the Holy Spirit's indwelling of His people. No one went inside the Holy of Holies, except the High Priest once a year. Now there is a story in 1 Samuel 5 about an encounter between the Philistine god "Dagon" and the Ark of the Covenant, verses 1-4 are awesome:

"After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained."

This is what happened when God moved into my life, and the Holy Spirit took up residence in me. All the old idols started falling on their faces before Him! One particular idol that God took care of was 'Visa'. At this point it was going to take me about 3 years to pay off the debt that I had accumulated, because I was living beyond my means, and if I did manage to pay it off in 3 years that would be without saving ANYTHING, but living pay cheque to pay cheque.

God challenged me on where I was putting my faith and my trust. "'In case of emergency', who are you going to trust to look after you? Visa? Or me?"

The Lord showed Himself faithful and gracious. This was "an emergency" or at very least a very, very nasty spot to be in. I felt so imprisoned, knowing that for the next 3 years I would be a slave until I paid off my debt. However, the Lord delivered me of that debt, I was given a lump sum of the exact amount I was in debt. So I paid it off and cut up my credit card. Since then whenever there have been "emergencies" or tight spots, He has NEVER failed to provide. In addition to that first lump sum which paid off my credit card, He has miraculously produced lump sums of money when I needed them four or five times. Additionally, before starting at Bible College, He provided a part-time IT contract role that was only supposed to last 3 months, and I have now been here nearly 2 yrs! This job just doesn't exist, He put it here for me. He has also used my lovely boyfriend to prompt me and teach me how to better manage what I have. He has also taught me to be content with what I have, because I know He is good and provides for me, however much He provides - despite what I may think - is enough to meet my needs.

God has ALWAYS been faithful to provide for me, when I have been financially responsible and when I have been financially irresponsible. This is not to say that I have been able to afford to buy everything that I WANT, but I have NEVER gone hungry, I have NEVER lacked what I needed. And this has been such a beautiful and constant reminder of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I can testify that Luke 12:22-24, 27-31 is true:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! ...Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

We quite simply do not need to worry about these things, God will provide, because He is good, and He is our Father, and He has promised to look after us, and delights to give good gifts to His children. We just need to focus on seeking His kingdom & His righteousness.

So that is how 'Visa' was dethroned in my life. Christ set me free.

God bless,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Christological Question

This week marks my return to classes, and it has already prompted some thinking! Most particularly last night when I waded my way through a most difficult bit of reading by a guy called Ogden, who really really needs to learn how to write in a way that doesn't make his reader feel like their head is being encased in fast-drying concrete... Anyways! Concrete notwithstanding he made some interesting claims.

The Christological question is normally expressed as "Who is Jesus?". Ogden showed that because Jesus is the revelation of God that the primary question is really "Who is God?". But he went on to say that this is important because it answers the existential question, "Why am I here?" (etc). So the question of who Jesus/God is, is really one of "What does God mean for

In one section he claimed that the "I am" statements in John should actually be translated "it is I". And that as such those statements are answering a different question to "Who is Jesus?". Rather the question is "Who is the bread of life?", the answer being "It is Jesus". His argument was that "who/what is the bread of life?", "who/what is the light of the world?" etc are the existential questions of life, it is how we confront "the meaning of life". As such he argued that the Christological question is not only "Who is Jesus?" and "Who is God?", but also "Who am I?".

I think this presents some opportunities and some problems. Firstly, the opportunities... Non-christians typically aren't asking the question "Who is Jesus?" they are typically asking "Why is there so much suffering?", "what will make me happy?", "why am I never satisfied?" etc. So if you take the "I am / It is I" statements in John they could be very useful evangelistically. If we convert the "I ams" into questions of "Who is the bread of life?" answer being "Jesus", then it might provide a handy list of typical questions (although metaphorical) that people are asking, for which we will readily recognise the answer as JESUS!

Where this worries me is that it removes focus from Christ and puts it on us, and makes who He is only worthy of contemplation because of how it will work out in my life. Now realistically none of us are entirely altruistic, none of us are completely disinterested in our pursuit of God, honestly none of us can give Him anything that wasn't already His by rights anyway, however! However, this seems to me to have come out of a post-Descartes way of thinking. Prior to Descartes life was reasoned from the perspective of the unchanging and permanentness of God. Descartes shifted thinking so that his starting point was himself, he reasoned that he existed because he thought, his famous line, cogito ergo sum "I think, therefore I am".

He then went on to reason that because a finite mind could not conceive on its own of the infinite that the fact we have the idea of an infinite God means that such a being must exist and have planted the idea in our minds. However, in Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks who he should say sent him, God's answer is "I am who I am". Descartian thinking flies directly in the face of this statement, only God's existence can be extrapolated from for He is the only one who is completely sufficient, and self-existant, whereas we are here today, gone tomorrow.

The danger in extrapolating from us up to God is that we end up making God in our own image. We see this happen all the time. God is revealed as 'Father' but because some people's experience of their natural fathers is negative they have difficulty in relating to God as Father. We project onto God the limitations and hurts and disappointments of our life and let that form our view of Him. This leads us to believe lies about God as our view of Him is formed out of lies we believe about ourselves.

Whereas if we start with how God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, and through the scriptures, we can then more accurately extrapolate from who He is BACK to who we are. In which case, the Johannine "I am" statements are more useful in the "I am" form than the "It is I" form. Given that we were never meant to live without Christ, we should never have had to ask the existential question "What is the way, the truth, the life?". The "I am" statements are the truth that always was, we just did not see it as our minds were clouded, I think Jesus was just reminding us.

Another example of this is in the case of suffering. We are prone to ask, "Why is God letting me suffer? What have I done?" And we assume that He must be angry or not love us, and therefore feel less prone to draw close to Him. However, if we start from the revelation of who He is in scripture, and are secure in His love as revealed through the person of Christ, it casts a completely different shadow on the issue of suffering. Who He is, is more definitive than what we experience. Because we know He loves us with an everlasting love we can rest peacefully, amid the suffering, that He will "work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (Ro 8:28), even when we do not understand how.

I think who God is, is the primary question, because its answer will cause the rearrangement of all else. It is who God is that drives everything, not the existential questions. Focussing on the existential questions is getting the cart before the horse. You can't answer them without knowing the answer to the question, "Who is Jesus?". I think "Who is Jesus?" IS the existential question of life.

Maybe I'm saying the same thing as Ogden... I just think the emphasis needs to be on God and His revelation as the starting point, not our existential questions. I fear that if we start with the existential questions we end up with the answer "42". I think in finding out who Jesus is we inevitably find out who we truly are, but I think it is a happy consequence not the point, because He deserves to be known and glorified even if benefits us nothing :-)

God bless,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Theological Worldview

I love those quiz thingys you can take on the net... Such a wonderful diversion from productivity ;) Found this one mentioned on another blog, and the results are interesting!!

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical


Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic




Modern Liberal


God bless,

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Semester Resolutions

Each Semester I make a resolution to be more organised and to consistently apply myself throughout the semester. This usually falls down around week 3 and by the time major essays are due it's a mad panic to read through the required amount of reference materials so that I can write something that answers the question. The stress is nasty, and leaves me exhausted. It is all exacerbated by the fact that I still get good marks, which I am never happy about because it encourages my leave-it-to-the-last-minute attitude.

So here are my 'New Semester Resolutions':

1. Do the assigned reading each week
2. Pick all essay topics in first week (getting started seems the hardest part)
3. Figure out what is due when, and what overlaps with other assignments
4. Minimise overlap between assignments by finishing some early if they clash so I can concentrate on one at a time
5. Start reading for major essays from beginning of semester
6. Get good regular sleep, keep late nights to a minimum
7. Observe Sundays as a Sabbath
8. Don't work overtime
9. Schedule regular quality time with important people in my life
10. Prioritise staying 'in community' at church, keep church commitments reasonable
11. Learn to say no to invitations, avoid overcommitting!!
12. Be sensible about amount of time to spend on things, prioritise and then do what I can in reasonable timeframes.
13. Study in College Library / with friends, studying at home alone it's too easy to get distracted and waste time
14. Set clear achievable goals for each study session
15. Keep resolutions beyond week 3!!!!!!!

God bless,

Holy Music

A lot is said of different styles of music in church and a lot of judgements are made about what is more appropriate "worship" based on the style of music. In more contemporary churches "good worship" is defined as music that stirs us and where we had a jolly good bounce and felt good. In more traditional churches "good worship" is defined more in terms of the sung liturgy, or beautiful hymns that have been sung "by the saints" for hundreds of years.

I recently read How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt. He discussed at one point the impact Christianity had made on music, and applauded the Christian music that conformed to the classic forms, whilst making an argument that since Jazz and Rock and Roll there has been a decline in the "holiness" of music, due to its discordant and rebellious themes. (I don't have the book around anymore so if I'm doing an injustice to his point, my apologies).

I personally wonder how we can make an objective assessment of whether a certain piece of music is "holy" or not. This needs to go beyond our subjective experience of it, to what musically and lyrically is pleasing / unpleasing to God. Does God have a sense of aesthetics? Does He enjoy one form of music more than another based on its "beauty"? If you divorce the lyrics from music, are there styles of music that are more honouring to God than others?

I think this is all rather difficult to answer. God hasn't revealed through His word a preference for a certain style of music. I haven't found anywhere it says, "Thus saith the Lord, I hateth Rock n' Roll, giveth me only thy praise by way of the pipe organ", and neither has He said, "Thus saith the Lord, I am bored of choral music, please someone plays drums in mine sanctuary". And if we stuck to what is literally said in the bible then musicians would be "dressed in fine linen and play cymbals, harps and lyres" (2 Chron 5:12)

I would definitely say that God has a sense of aesthetics, or else where did we get a sense of aesthetics from?? Where does our appreciation of beauty come from otherwise? C. S. Lewis wrote "The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from". There is something about beauty that inherently draws us towards God, as it reveals God.

There is amazing diversity in creation, and all of it He said was "good". That would include a stormy winters day as much as a beautiful spring afternoon. (And yet that winter's day is dark, broody and chaotic, as is a lot of modern music.) I think God would appreciate a peach as much as He does a pear, and likewise from a musical perspective I think there isn't that much difference in essence between madrigals and the latest hillsong jumpy song. Given that God is a creative God and that we are made in His image, isn't creating music, of any genre in some way honouring Him, particularly when the music is written or played for the glory of God? This goes to the "spirit and truth" question, what is the motivation for the music?

One difficulty in determining the "holiness" of a piece of music is really that without the lyrics, a piece of music does not communicate clearly its subject matter. It communicates and ellicts feelings, and in time you can come to associate certain strains in the music with certain subjects, but it isn't clear without lyrics who or what is being played about. This is of concern in the respect that a piece of music maybe joyful, but is it communicating and elliciting joy about God or about something else? Charles Spurgeon wrote, "When I have heard of large congregations gathered together by the music of a fine choir, I have remembered that the same thing is done at the opera house and the music-hall, and I have felt no joy. When we have heard of crowds enchanted by the sublime music of the pealing organ, I have seen in the fact rather a glorification of St. Cecilia than of Jesus Christ. Our Lord trusted in no measure or degree to the charms of music for the establishing his throne. He has not given to his disciples the slightest intimation that they are to employ the attractions of the concert room to promote the kingdom of heaven." So Spurgeon wouldn't be a big fan of Planetshakers. Are the people there worshipping God or are they simply enjoying the music? Or both?

I think a good line would be to try an ensure that any music is not distracting. I often find with the louder styles of music that my attention is distracted away from God, whereas the softer music (or silence!!) is less distracting. In which case this isn't just a question of aesthetics as such, one can enjoy many styles of music, and yet find one style more distracting than another, when the aim is not the enjoyment of music but glorification of God.

I think lyrics are the clearest way I think we can assess a piece of music as to whether it is glorifying to God. Obviously if the words are blasphemous, irreverent or promoting a non-biblical world view then there's a problem. I also think there is an issue when too much is made of "me" in the words, rather than focussing on Christ. And this is probably where a lot of modern Christian music is problematic, "I love you Lord", "I give my life", "I come to you", "I called, you answered". I, I, I, me, me, me. Rather, He first loved us, he gave His life for us, He came to us, He called us, etc. And how about, "You are everything to me". Well, is that before or after we swear at our neighbour for cutting us off in traffic? Before or after we prioritise sleep over spending time with Him in prayer? How honestly can any of us ever say that He is EVERYTHING to us? Our faithfulness to God is quite pitiful, rather it is His faithfulness to us that is worthy of song.

God bless,

Friday, February 22, 2008

Science has discovered forgiveness

There is an interesting article today in the Sydney Morning Herald entitle More than divine: science discovers that there is power in forgiveness. It is interesting on a number of counts...

Let's start with the title "More than divine: science discovers..." This portrays the writer's conviction that somehow science is more real/reliable than theology. It is as if they were saying, "well you may have irrationally thought that forgiveness was a good thing, but now we KNOW rationally because science has proved it". Because apparently all theologically based ideas come from an irrational leap of faith, and so are spurious, whereas science is the only way to find truth in a world that doesn't believe in absolute truth. How many more theological ideas does science have to prove before the bright sparks figure out that theology is just as rational a way of understanding life, the universe and everything as science? (Francis Shaeffer's book Escape from Reason on this topic is a fantastic read btw).

OK, having said that, it is interesting that the study has shown that forgiveness is actually more beneficial for the 'victim' rather than the 'perpetrator'. I think the key section in this article is where it says, "Now, forgive the offender. Don't just shed the bitterness and drop the recrimination, but empathise with his plight, wish him well and move on - whether he is sorry or not." This directly mirrors the New Testament instructions that we should "pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44), "love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back..." (Lk 6:35), "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." (Rm 12:14).

Now who would have guessed that if God asks us to do something that it would actually work out for OUR good?? LOL.

So there are two ways of dealing with hurt. The world's way (before science discovered forgiveness and saved us all from ourselves LOL) was to hold on to it, use it as an excuse to act out in anger towards others, and build a wall around the heart so "no one can ever hurt me like that again". The result is that we shrivel. We become less able to have meaningful relationships, because we function on this "safe" level where no one can hurt us because no one can get close enough. We become less willing to engage with life and ride out it's good and bad days, instead withdrawing within a safe emotional shell. We also tend to lash out at others if they behave in a way that reminds us of the last time we were hurt. "This is just like that time when..." and so we hold on to a serious of things that happened in our lives, and often draw out of them a lesson about who we are and what our value is, "if you were worth anything this wouldn't keep happening", "nobody loves you", "you are worthless".

My own experience in this is that over my lifetime I have developed a bit of an abandonment/rejection complex. When I was little some people I really loved moved overseas / interstate, and I couldn't understand why they would do that if they loved me. Then when my little sister was born I felt rejected, now that my parents had her, they wouldn't need/love me. Also had bad experiences at school with being rejected/betrayed by people. Then a couple of years ago I went through a nasty divorce. I don't want to get into details, I was at fault as much as my ex-husband was, so I don't want to labour the example as if he was 'the bad guy' and I the 'innocent party'. Neither of us lived up to our vows. Sadly, the marriage for both of us I think provided more of a sense of rejection than of love. It was very lonely, and deeply, deeply hurtful. I am deeply sorry for what happened, for the ways I failed to honour him and the hurt that I inflicted on him.

When the divorce finally went through I thought I would die because of the pain. I could not conceive of the possibility that the immense ocean of pain and grief would ever, ever end. I hated him as much as I loved him. What I found was this, that whole "bless those who persecute you" thing works. As I began to pray that God would bless him, more and more the pain went away, more and more I felt safe and that I didn't need to barricade myself inside an emotional shell. More and more I became grateful that if all of that had to have had happened that at least I had come to know God in the process, and I had learnt from walking with Him through suffering just how much His heart breaks for us, and also that my faith was not based on what God could do for me, but that knowing Him was consolation enough. I still regularly pray for God to bless him. It's funny but I see it now as an honour to be able to do that, given that it does me no good at all! It gives me a great sense of peace and joy.

I think an important thing to realise with forgiveness is that it requires first that you acknowledge that something wrong has been done to you. You can't forgive something that you rationalise away, and when you start building the walls you internalise the experience and make it part of who you are, and so it doesn't seem wrong, because "people just don't like me" so it was natural for that thing to have happened. To forgive I think you have to look at yourself squarely in the mirror and realise that you have worth and value and that what was done was wrong. It's only at that point that you can forgive it. If you don't think it was wrong, no matter how hurt you feel, you won't think you need to forgive it. This is particularly difficult when you weren't entirely innocent yourself, because there's a sense that "I deserved that". This comes out of spurious thinking that says "two wrongs make a right". What you did was wrong, but that doesn't make what they did less wrong. In this case, you probably need to forgive yourself as well as them.

God bless,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Selling Jesus

OK, I've been holding back on writing this because it seriously gets my goat, and I don't know how dispassionately I can discuss it, but here we go... I hate the way some churches go about evangelism. I hate how marketing principles have crept into drawing non-Christians into the church. I hate how getting people to church and to make a decision has become the point of evangelism.

Here are some of the bad reasons that church marketing uses get people to come to church:

  • We have a great "worship experience"
  • Jesus wants to make you happy
  • Jesus wants to make you rich
  • Jesus wants to make you fit & healthy
  • Jesus wants to help you have the best sex ever

All these examples fall into two errors:

  1. Conforming to the world by promoting the cult of Me
  2. Selling Jesus on His "lifestyle benefits"

All these reasons are NOT about Christ but about people. It sends the message that church and Christianity is about us not about Christ. It does not matter to Jesus one bit how great the music is if it isn't centred on Him. He seeks those who worship "in spirit and in truth" not necessarily those who worship "in tune and in time". If it's about the "worshipper" and how much we enjoy the experience then we are seeking our own pleasure NOT worship of God. This is not worship of God but idolatry. I am not saying we are not allowed to enjoy worship, but the lights/smoke/volume/rockingness is secondary to the question of whether we have worshipped God in spirit & truth.

All the other reasons listed above, Jesus wants to make you happy, rich, healthy and for you to have great sex also fall into this trap of being about us rather than Christ. It is attempting to sell Jesus in exchange for money/health/sex. Jesus is not going to give us health, wealth, great sex in exchange for our love. The cross should be enough to gain our love as it is the ultimate sign of His love for us.

Does Jesus want good things for us? Yes, but ALL this is secondary to the truth of the gospel. People who teach these things as primary to the gospel are dancing dangerously close to Paul's definition of "false teachers" in 1 Tim 6, who preach that "godliness is a means to financial gain" (v5). I think Paul would be happy with my broadening the application to "godliness is a means to health, wealth and HOT sex!!"

All of this I think stems out of an unhealthily Arminian view of salvation. We need to remember predestination, those who are going to be saved are going to be saved, so we don't need to twist their arm. We need to "go" (NB. See the great commission, "go into the world" not "get them to come to church") and do a honest job of "witnessing" (NB. Interesting that the bible uses the word "witness" not "sell" or "market"). Yes the human will has a role in salvation, but to be a true convert you need not just to make a decision for Jesus, but you need to be predestined, called, regenerated, granted faith and repentence, justified before God and adopted into His family. All these things God does. If there is any role of our will in the process it's only because He enables us to do it, the decision is not a saving work!! (i.e. If making the decision saved us, it would be a work not grace that saves us).

Anything good that God does in our lives after salvation is as much pure grace as salvation itself. It is presumptuous to assume that He will do it, although it is in His character to give good gifts to His children. However it does not make a good basis for relationship, to love Him for what He can give us, rather than for who He is. I feel so strongly about this because I hate anything that seperates people from God, especially those things that have the appearance of bringing uscloser but in actual fact still divide. To try and trick people into coming to Jesus by manipulating them with their idols is sick. Idols do not lead people to Christ.

Nothing else in life is of any value in comparison to knowing Jesus. Even when that brings suffering and pain. Faith needs to be based on who Jesus is. If faith is based on the blessings of God, then if people do not "get what they signed up for" they will abandon the faith. Which is to say their faith was never IN Jesus to begin with, although they may have thought they were Christian because they prayed the sinner's prayer.

Just to finish on a bit of a lighter note, I found this vid on YouTube, talks about It's-all-about-Me worship:

God bless,

Being a Woman

I have just finished reading Kevin Giles' book The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. It is such an interesting read, there is so much that comes out of it.

His discussion on how the cultural context of the reader influences interpretation of the Bible I initially found uncomfortable. I like to think that if you do your exegesis properly that the cultural assumptions of the reader don't come into it. However, after reading his section on how the theology around slavery changed as a result of the changes in society that were happening, I can see that this makes sense.

His contention was that up until the 1800s the majority of theologians held that the bible not only regulated but legitimated slavery. That good evangelical theologians made an argument from the bible that blacks were by nature subordinate to whites, and that slavery was a divinely ordained institution. Very few would make that argument now, praise God.

Most interestingly there is actually a better biblical case for slavery than there is for the subordination of women, and yet most theologians who are pro-subordination of women are anti-slavery. It is fascinating that in the same sections of scripture that deal with the "household codes" that say that women should be submissive to their husbands, that slaves should obey their masters, that children should obey their parents, that the slavery clause is interpreted as culturally specific for the first century and not a timeless principle, YET the women clause is held to be a timeless principle.

I have been thinking about all this, and what it all means for me as a woman. Before I knew Christ I was a militant feminist, I wasn't in it for equality, rather because I feared that in my nature I actually wasn't equal I fought to prove that I was better than men. As an intelligent woman I often found that I could out-argue many men, and I rather relished 'proving my worth'. I also thought that to be equal with men meant being like men, particularly in the corporate world. It seemed that the women who moved up the management hierarchy were those who were tough and steely and who were comfortable in highly testosterone filled environments.

When I met Christ my perception of myself as a woman changed. I came to realise that I didn't need to prove anything to anyone about my worth. That my worth and my identity did not come from proving that I was better than or like a man, that I could be a woman, be gentle and soft, as well as intelligent and productive in the workplace. I started to incorporate what Jesus was showing me about myself into the way I worked. In managing my team I focussed on looking after my people rather than being so relentlessly task focussed. It is interesting, shortly later I was made redundant and was looking for work. When I applied for another team lead role at one of the major banks, the feedback from the agent after my interview with the bank was that I was "too nice" and they were looking for more of a "cold hard career bitch".

My response to all this was that wasn't the kind of woman I want to be, and that if that's what they were looking for I was glad not to work there as it would be a nasty environment! But I think in abandoning the 'career bitch' stereotype and also the 'barbie doll' stereotype I've fallen back into another stereotype of womanhood.

This stereotype I think is more subtle and dangerous, because it's so often labelled "biblical womanhood". The difficulty is, as Giles' says, you can make a biblical arguement for the subordination of women, but you can also make a biblical argument for the egalitarian position. I've fallen into the "men and women are equal, but men are more equal than women" line of thinking and that I think is just a product of growing up seeing the "Christian ideal" of women in submission to men.

This I think though was a product of the times. Growing up I heard stories about women who had stayed with their husbands who were abusive, and had heard these women commended for their faithfulness. But in many cases these women could not have supported themselves if they left their husbands, and were living in a time where divorce just did not happen.

What I am wondering is this... times have changed, do the household codes of the first century apply now? The cultural context of the first century is not the same as ours. In the first century the pater familias (the father of the household) had the power of life and death over his wife, children and slaves. In our culture and time any man who killed his wife & kids would be charged with murder. Different times.

Throughout the bible God is shown to be interested in justice and mercy. I think an interesting piece of scripture in this context is Matthew 23:23; God is more interested in "justice, mercy and faithfulness" than quibbling about law. This whole debate on what constitutes a biblical position on subordination could really be seen as quibbling about law. Giles' point about text-jam - where both sides can proof-text their viewpoint until the Lord returns seems to me a quibbling about law.

Maybe the key issue is that in the first century women did not have the opportunity for justice in the way we do now, and so the bible addresses the situation and opportunities of the time. But what does justice for women mean now?

The subordination of women didn't come in until the fall, Genesis 3 is the first place in the bible where a clear and unequivocal statement is made on the subject, God said to Eve "...Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (v16). This situation of inequality between the sexes is a result of the fall, not God's eternal purpose.

So I'm seeing a new alternative for how I view myself as a woman. Still do not want to be a militant feminist, I love and respect men WAY too much! And the subordinate woman thing I am seeing isn't right. So maybe the issue is really in defining my value, position, identity and relationships in terms of my gender. Maybe I can be gentle and soft because I'm Bec and it's who God made me, and reflects Christ. Maybe I can be intelligent and be gifted for teaching because those are gifts God gave me for the service of the body regardless of whether I have a Y chromosome or not. Maybe how I relate to people (future hubbie included) is a result of my "Becness" rather than my femaleness. Maybe I should stop trying to shove myself into a cookie-cutter shape of what it means to be "a woman".

God bless,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rudd's Apology Speech

The full text of Kevin Rudd's Apology Speech today is available here:

Praise God! I truly pray that this provides a platform that allows Australia to move forward on fixing the issues of infant mortality and differing levels of economic opportunity, and general life expectancy rates in our Indigenous communities. I pray that this will save lives.

All praise and glory to Jesus.

God bless,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Subordinationism and King Arthur's Round Table

OK, I want to start by saying I am getting in WAY over my head by commenting on trinitarian theology, but here we go! I'm currently reading Kevin Giles' The Trinity & Subordinationism which discusses the concept of the subordination of the Son to the Father within the Godhead and whether this was a temporal state of affairs during the incarnation (i.e. because of Jesus's manhood) or whether this is an eternal state of affairs due to some dividing issue of role/substance etc within the Godhead. The relationship between the Father and Son is used by both sides of the Gender Debate to legitimise their stance on whether women are to be always subordinate to men.

I am finding it very interesting! I'm about 1/3 of the way through and so far he has been looking at what various theologians have believed throughout the last 2000 yrs on this issue of subordination. His goal is to show that orthodox Christianity interprets scripture in light of the doctrine that all members of the Trinity are equal and of the same substance, whilst in three persons. He wants to do this as he points out that you can make an argument from scripture for both positions and that quoting particular bits of scripture at the other side will not resolve the problem, and so he is more interested in the broad scope of scripture. There is a bit of a problem in what he says about the context of the reader being an input to the interpretation of scripture - that's a very postmodern view and as far as I can tell is an excellent definition of eisegesis.

However, so far I have been fascinated by his discussion of the various ways people have grappled with the three-but-one nature of God, it has shown me a number of areas where my own beliefs have been quite inconsitent, and in all truth heretical! Now if you were to ask me whether I believed that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were equal within the Godhead, I would have said yes. But at the same time, I've realised that I do tend to think of them in a hierarchy with the Father as "Boss". Jesus and the Spirit as somewhat lesser, partly because they intercede between the Father and us (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:26-27), and so that sort of emotionally makes them feel a bit "closer" to me, or more "like" me, and thus less like the Father. But to say all persons in the Trinity are equal but yet some how in hierarchy is like Orwell's line in Animal Farm, "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others". Which is an oxymoron.

OK, so here is my highly untheological contribution to the discussion. Another reason I think that I've fallen into thinking about the Trinity in terms of hierarchy is that when we name the three persons we typically say "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in that order... Check out things like the Athanasian Creed, Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed. Even in the great commission we are instructed to go, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). I've also noticed that a lot of songs have them in that same order, I say a lot, because I have noticed as a bit odd when this order isn't followed. Again this is a highly untheological reflection, but I'm wondering if just listing them consistently in that order gives the impression of hierarchy?

This is where King Arthur's Round Table comes in! Because language is two dimensional maybe in listing the persons of the Trinity thusly it creates a sense of them in "a line" or company organisation chart where the Father is CEO, Jesus is the COO and the Holy Spirit is the hardworking plebs! However the picture of tables occured to me this morning. If you are planning a wedding and doing the seating arrangements then you would list people and they would appear to be all sitting in a row, if you just use words (E.g. Bill, Sally, Esther). However, if you have diagrams of the floor layout, you might discover that they are actually going to be sitting at round tables. In which case if you start your list with Bill or with Esther or any of the others is inconsequential because there is NO position at the table that is higher than the others.

This was the point with King Arthur's Round Table. It was built round so the Knights wouldn't fight about position in the court, but recognise that they were all equal. What is significant in the round table configuration is who is sitting either side of each person. And when there are three around the table, each can be defined by their relationship to the other. Just as Bill can be defined as sitting to the left of Sally and the right of Esther, so Sally and Esther can likewise be defined in terms of the relationship to Bill and each other. This I think applies in the Trinity as well, the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father etc.

So my highly untheological thought is this, we should wrap that 2D list around a 3D model of a roundtable. In this way, we can avoid the Arian heresy of thinking that Jesus and the Spirit are somehow lesser than the Father. They are all metaphorically sitting nicely around a roundtable next to each of the other persons, and each equally capable of passing the butter.

God (the whole three persons co-eternal, and co-equal) Bless,

Friday, February 8, 2008

Judging, Correcting, Rebuking

I have been thinking recently about the whole issue of judging people, or saying things that can be construed as judgement. I rather wonder whether when we are corrected or rebuked we confuse it for judgement, and use that as an excuse to not hear something that we really really need to hear. Of course this could also have to do with the balance of “grace and truth” that is used. Too much truth without grace is hard to swallow.

Scripture is quite clear about not judging people. Jesus said, don’t judge or you’ll be judged (Mt 7:1, Lk 6:37). He also says we need to deal with our own “plank” before worrying about our brother’s “speck” (Mt 7:3-5, Lk 6:41-42) but it is interesting that He then says, “then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” which means that He does intend for us to correct each other, as long as we’ve got our own house in order. Given that none of us are ever going to be perfect in every issue in this life, I’d hazard a guess that this means when we judge others for the same thing we ourselves fail at Jesus isn’t happy. For example, someone who puts in a dodgy tax return and judges someone for stealing their wallet. I think what Jesus is really objecting to here is hypocrisy. Given that we are all sinners, all fallen to some extent we are always hypocritical when we judge others for being sinners and fallen. This is picked up further in Romans 2:1-3, which says that we condemn ourselves when we pass judgement on others, because we do the same things. Hypocrisy is the issue, and we will not escape God’s judgement for doing this.

Sometimes the process of removing a speck from our own eye is hard-fought and painful, but the learning and value of that experience is inestimable in terms of its helpfulness for ourselves and others. I think it is also interesting that the next verse in Matthew (7:6) says to be careful about who we share these things with, to not “throw your pearls to pigs” and that if we do, “they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces”. How often does that happen! You tell someone something because you’ve learnt the hard way that living a certain way isn’t good and you just want to save them the pain of learning that the hard way, and yet they turn and bite you because you have “judged them”.

Within the church, Paul instructs that we SHOULD judge each other when someone is in gross sin. He is responding to the case of the man who was sleeping with his step-mother, and says not to associate with sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, slanderous, drunkard or swindling people within the church (1 Cor 5:9-11). He goes on to say “what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."” (1 Cor 5:12-13). There clearly is a place for judging people within the church and taking action when they are not living according to their professed faith. The purpose of doing this is so that “the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5) So this is to be done for the GOOD of our Christian brothers and sisters, not out of hypocrisy and not because it makes us feel good. Paul says that we should be “filled with grief” (1 Cor 5:2), but yet take action.

In the Pastoral Epistles both Timothy and Titus are instructed to correct and rebuke people:

  • “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim 4:2)
  • “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
  • “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” (1 Tim 5:20)
  • “… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13)
  • “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:15)

In terms of eternal judgement, that clearly is only for Jesus to do:

  • “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” (John 12:48)
  • “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

So this is something we do need to do, but with humility. Some key passages to think about when looking at how to do the grace bit of “grace and truth”:

  • “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:12-13)
  • “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom... But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:13, 17-18)

God bless,

P.S. I love being rebuked - that's how I got saved ;)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The bubble suit

If only such an apparatus could deal with the sinful desires of the heart eh!? :)
(Swiped from the funny folks at Mars Hill Church)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Apologies, Repentance & Forgiveness

I am really pleased to see that one of the first things Kevin Rudd is making as PM is to make that apology to Australia’s Indigenous Community for the stolen generation debacle. It is a really good first step towards reconciliation and I hope that it really does provide us with better opportunities to address some of the problems in our Indigenous Communities such as the life expectancy gap.

Apologies are a funny thing aren’t they? I read The Five Languages of Apology a couple of years ago. I read it in an attempt to find the words or actions that I could use to clearly communicate to someone I loved how sorry I was. The book was based on the premise that just as people communicate love in different ways (ala The Five Love Languages); they also use different methods to apologise. We each have preferred languages and unless others use that particular language we don’t really ‘hear’ that they are sorry.

The five languages were:
1. Expressing Regret – a heartfelt expression of how you feel because you’ve hurt them
2. Accept Responsibility – accept that you’ve done something wrong, and don't deflect blame
3. Make Restitution – make efforts to make amends, make the person feel loved
4. Genuinely Repent – understand that the behaviour was wrong and commit to change
5. Request Forgiveness – ask for grace, understand that forgiveness isn’t a certainty, and that it is that person’s choice to forgive or not

I think that last point is the hardest; recognising that it is actually up to the other person whether they accept the apology and forgive or not. That can be really, really hard; to do everything that you can because you truly desire reconciliation and healing in the relationship, but knowing that that forgiveness bit is out of your hands.

The funny thing is that when we refuse to forgive it really only hurts ourselves in the long run. I see this in my life, I hold on to offence, and don’t forgive because I think in doing that I’m protecting myself from being hurt again. This doesn’t only impact my relationship with the person who’s hurt me, but with others as well. The tape plays in my head, “they’ll only hurt you too/again”, “how long will it take before they reject you / leave you too?” And all that achieves is that I keep myself distant and don’t open up to allow myself to experience real relationships with people, which creates a sense of rejection by itself as the tape plays, “why don’t you have better/deeper relationships with people”.

You know more than half the time I don’t think people hurt me out of malice, I think it’s thoughtlessness. I know most of the time when I hurt people it isn’t intentional, it’s just that I have SO much space in my mouth that both feet fit in there quite comfortably, sometimes things just come out of my mouth and I instantly think, “where the hell did that come from???” but the damage is done. The other source of hurt in my life is when my assumptions and expectations are not met, which is hardly anyone else’s fault. I think other conflict comes out of miscommunication, someone says one thing quite amicably, but by the time that is filtered through my life experience I hear something quite hostile.

The "narrow way" seems to be to keep opening yourself up and loving people despite it all, and leaving the possible consequence of being hurt again in God’s hands. That is not to say He gets the blame, or it’s His fault, but just trusting that in forgiving as He forgave us, and loving our neighbours as ourselves that yes it does open us up to pain, but that He is more than willing, more than capable of healing that hurt and helping us move on. He certainly demonstrated this Himself when on the cross Jesus cried, “Father forgive them” and this is the one of whom Isaiah wrote, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:3). I love that He identified Himself with us in that way, that He chose to share our suffering. I think it is a huge temptation to not forgive, but Jesus went through that temptation to not forgive and overcame it. Hebrews 4:15-16 comes to mind, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God bless,

Sunday, February 3, 2008

God & Dogs

I'm not much of an animal person myself, but I did enjoy this article in The Age:

Particularly the last paragraph:

As I've reflected on the relationship between Rusty and myself, it has helped me understand the relationship I have with God. This longing we have for something or someone who is ignorant of our faults is a longing for love in its deepest form. The only times I have found that in life are through relationships; with my family, my wife and my God. However many times I escape his presence to climb fences and chase metaphorical cars, God's love for me is unchanging, and no matter what I do, his love remains an everlasting love
(Jeremiah 31:3).

God bless,