The hiddenness of God

Hidden in plain sight.

God in Christ.

For all to see.

Yet not seen by all.

God’s parable.

To some it is given.

To those who have eyes and ears to see and hear.

Does God exist?

Where is he?

He does.

He is.


In plain sight.

God in Christ.

What about your beautiful eyes and ears?

Are they to see the Hidden in plain sight?










2 Corinthians 5:19

… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Text Tuesday – Book Review

This is a portion of a review of Bart Ehrman’s recent book by the important New Testament and Early Christianity scholar Larry Hurtado. The review is posted in its entirety over at Christian Century.


Lord and God

Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God

Through his words and actions, Jesus of Nazareth excited expectations that he was (or would be) the Messiah. That Jesus inspired this hope likely led the Roman authorities to crucify him. Jesus didn’t actually claim divinity for himself, and he wasn’t worshiped as such during his earthly ministry. The ascription of divine status to Jesus and the accompanying devotional practices that are reflected in the New Testament arose only after—though astonishingly soon after—Jesus’ crucifixion. Key to this development were experiences (“visions”) of the resurrected Jesus, which generated in the earliest circles of Jewish believers the conviction that God had raised Jesus (bodily) from death and exalted him to a unique heavenly status and glory. Further developments in christological belief over the ensuing decades and centuries led to the classic doctrine of the Trinity.

That, in a nutshell, is the thrust of Bart Ehrman’s book. To anyone familiar with a historical approach to the topic, these will not be novel conclusions. Indeed, they have been affirmed by a significant number of New Testament scholars, especially over the past several decades. That an astonishing “high Christology” erupted quite soon after Jesus’ crucifixion, and that the risen Jesus featured remarkably in the corporate devotional practices of earliest believers, has been increasingly recognized. As the great German New Testament scholar Martin Hengel observed about developments in the 20 years between Jesus’ execution and the earliest letters of Paul, “in essentials more happened in Christology within these few years than in the whole subsequent seven hundred years of church history.”

However, Ehrman’s book is intended for readers generally unacquainted with this scholarly work. Among those readers he obviously aims to have a dramatic impact. Many Christians unacquainted with the historical data will assume that beliefs about Jesus’ divine status derive from Jesus’ own claims, and many non-Christians will likewise assume that the validity of traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus depends upon whether Jesus actually made corresponding claims. For both kinds of readers, the “news” that Jesus didn’t actually make the sort of claims for himself that earliest believers made about him may seem somewhat sensational.

As in his other popular books, Ehrman clearly seeks not simply to inform but also to stir controversy among this varied readership. More specifically, he hopes to startle naive traditionalist Christians, nettle anxious apologists of Christian faith, and reassure fellow agnostics (Ehrman’s self-description) and skeptics that there is justification for their doubt. (He is obviously able to stir a response: published almost simultaneously with this book is a multiauthor riposte, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature, released by Zondervan.)

Ehrman’s polemical agenda may well make for a lively discussion and a marketable book, but it also lessens somewhat his ability to give a balanced historical picture. Ehrman, who teaches at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, gained prominence by way of a string of books with a similarly sensational tone aimed at a general readership on a variety of topics—variants in New Testament manuscripts (Misquoting Jesus), the problem of evil (God’s Problem), and pseudonymous writings in the Bible (Forged). These books generated appearances on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and phenomenal sales, at least compared to most books by scholars. In all these works he makes frequent reference to his own journey from naive and fundamentalist Christian to voluble (but generally genial) agnostic. Along with (and as another result of) his popular books, he often engages in public debates with Christian apologists, adding to his public stature.

In those prior books, Ehrman drew more directly on his own scholarly expertise. In this one he focuses on matters on which he himself has not been a noted contributor. He draws heavily (and respectfully) on the work of a number of other scholars (including my own work, such as Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity) who in recent decades have probed the origins of belief in Jesus as divine. Ehrman is often good at making scholarly arguments accessible. Unfortunately, in a few matters he oversimplifies or misconstrues things, and in other cases his claims and arguments appear one-sided.

An example of oversimplifying: in the first chapter Ehrman rightly notes that the Roman world was full of gods and deified humans (especially deified rulers), and he suggests that this phenomenon helps explain the emergence of beliefs about Jesus as divine. But he fails to indicate that for Roman-era Jews the plurality of deities and demigods and the practice of deifying rulers were repellent, even blasphemous. More of an explanation is needed as to how the multiplicity of deities in the Roman environment could have been a relevant and facilitating factor for considering Jesus divine in the circles of devout Jews among whom (as Ehrman readily grants) the divinity of Jesus was first asserted.

more …

Friday Frivolity

Bought this DVD on it’s release (2002) – a region 1 version. Suspect I was the only one in the UK to do so. Region 1 DVDs do not play here (ordinarily) – that’s the US region. We are Region 2. Too much information. I have a great interest in comedy and it’s composition and ultimately its secret … timing. (perfect).

This trailer is for Jerry Seinfeld’s post retirement of material return to stand up journey. You have to watch it for it to make sense. Hal Douglas as the hapless voiceover man is wonderful. A renegade cop …..


Repeated viewing never fails to deliver.

Seinfeld Comedian

Simple V Complex: Ramadan Reflections

Many lovely muslims say to me, a Christian, your beliefs about God are complex. Ours are simple. Therefore ours must be true.

I say to the lovely muslim “must be – how so?”

They profer – God would not give us something complex to understand about himself when we would struggle to understand it. He would give us something simple so it could be understood.

This is an attractive piece of reasoning based on the idea that God would be committed to presenting simple things about himself so that we would understand them.

But I am not so sure. Surely God would and does reveal truth to us – in his mercy and condescension toward his creatures. If God is complex, high above us, surely we might encounter something of that in his presentation of Himself to us.

complexityComing back to the idea that Simple is obviously truer than complex, I would venture that the simple understanding of the God as put forward in Islam is not necessarily true simply based on that idea. I find the Buddhist notion of One (everything is one, there is no divisibility – all divisibility is but an illusion – all is One) to be immensely attractice and immensely simple. The most simple idea in metaphysics that there is. But I actually don’t believe it is true. And complexity versus simplicity does not play a part at all in my judgement of Buddhism versus Christianity (versus Islam). But for the Muslim who insists I should abandon my One God who is Three (Complex) for their One God who is One (simpler) simply based on those grounds needs to be consistent and surrender to buddhistic One (simplest of all).

I am not advocating that Muslims renounce Islam and become Buddhists. What a waste of renouncement that would be. As a christian of course I want lovely muslims (and the unlovely ones too) to renounce Islam and embrace the Jesus of the New Testament – the Saviour & LORD. (He actually came to save the unlovely and rebuke the so called lovely). But some muslims and many particularly converts to Islam cite this reduced complexity of ideas about God as a major factor in their conversion. It is interesting that it becomes for many a master concept, a deal breaker – worth using emphatically to persuade others to embrace Islam. As a master concept it needs to carry them further – to Buddhism. If it doesn’t then it needs to fadeaway and become an incidental finding on the road having embraced a particular worldview. But for many it is more than this – not just something spotted on the arrival at a destination but a driver directing some towards Islam. I simply say that as a driver it’s work is unfinished when you arrive at Islamville. Buddhaville is 40 clicks down the road and is the simplest destination of all.

So why am I not a buddhist? Because as I journey through life I have found myself arriving at the God who is Three (One God, eternally existing as Father, Son and Spirit) not because I crave simplicity or complexity for that matter but truth. It may turn out to be untrue. But that won’t be because of it’s complexity.

I hope to say something about the proposition that Islam is simple and Christianity is complex another time but for now this has been another Ramadan Reflection.

Peace and blessing of Christ be upon you and your family.

Contrasts & Paradoxes

Hat tip to Jared C. Wilson for posting this over at his blog. Octavious Winslow – great name, great meditation on the Son of God – eternally begotten of the Father.

Eternal love moved the heart of Jesus to relinquish . . .
heaven for earth;
a diadem for a cross;
the robe of divine majesty for the garment of our nature;
by taking upon Himself the leprosy of our sin.
Oh, the infinite love of Christ!
What a boundless, fathomless ocean!

Ask the ransomed of the Lord, whose chains He has dissolved, whose dungeon He has opened, whose liberty He has conferred — if there ever was love like His!

What shall we say of the ransom price? It was the richest, the costliest, that Heaven could give! He gave Himself for us! What more could He do? He gave Himself; body, soul and spirit. He gave His time, His labor, His blood, His life, His ALL — as the price for our ransom, the cost of our redemption. He carried the wood and reared the altar. Then, bearing His bosom to the stroke of the uplifted and descending arm of the Father — He paid the price of our salvation in the warm lifeblood of His heart!

What a boundless, fathomless ocean! How is it that we feel the force and exemplify the practical influence of this amazing, all commanding truth so faintly? Oh, the desperate depravity of our nature! Oh, the deep iniquity of our iniquitous hearts! Will not the blood-drops of Jesus move us? Will not the agonies of the cross influence us? Will not His dying love constrain us to a more heavenly life?

                                                                                                           Octavius Winslow

Just beginning to read Jared’s book The Story Telling God – which I am enjoying very much so far. An exploration on the Parables of Jesus.

story telling