Text on Tuesday – More ‘early church’ and less Text

Today I want to post a link to a lecture by Gerald Bray (Research Professor of Divinity, History and Doctrine at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University) on Tertullian and the Latin Church. This lecture was a bit of a slow start but turned out to be really excellent. So much became clear and fell into place for me – particularly in relation to some of the distinctive practices and dogmas of the Roman Catholic church.

By clicking the image below it will link to the website where I sourced the lecture for this post.

tertullian_001

Click to Play the MP3

This lecture was originally hosted at a wonderful theological resource; with classes and courses from basic to advanced – highly recommended.

biblical training

Click here for more of Gerald Bray and a million other lectures

 

 

Friday Fundamentals – ISIS

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If you wonder how ISIS can appear so serious about Islam?

If you wonder why ISIS kills so easily?

If you wonder why ISIS is killing more Muslims than Christians?

If you wonder why Muslims all over the western world condemn ISIS?

Read this article by Graeme Wood. I encourage you not to rail against it but to consider it. I don’t agree with all his conclusions but I have encountered similar Muslim ideology on the streets of London and actually meet Anjem Choudary in an east London coffee house. Met, said hello, shook hands and that was it. It’s a longer story but not as sinister as it sounds.

Over the years, a number, quite a number in fact, of Muslims doing street faith sharing, Dawah, calling people to Islam, in answer to questions about the killing or subjugation of non believers, always cited the lack of the rule of a Caliph, the existence of a Caliphate as the reason, Muslims generally lived at peace in the West. It was a matter of timing and they and I never expected that that would change in our lifetimes. Legitimate or not, this ISIS Caliphate is making waves. Let’s hope it won’t be a Tsunami. Before you say I am over reacting, I must say that I never thought we would see some of the things happening in European cities as have happened in the last year. I hope and pray for a de-escalation of this wave of one of the forms of Islam. But the time for being naive is coming to an end. ISIS is certainly a form of Islam, thankfully not the majority form. But it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that counts. That’s and unfortunate metaphor, considering Muhammad, the muslim’s role model, relationship to dogs.

I will post an excerpt and encourage you to read the whole thing. Remember reassurance and denial will only work if there is nothing to worry about.

Here is an excerpt ……

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

For the whole thing click here.

Friday Fundamentals – Control & Decay

Wendy from Theology for Women has written with some insight. Click her name to get to the original piece. Keep it coming Wendy.

Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16.

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine’s Day.  Oh, what a warped view of love we have. I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading the book or going to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone is going because they think it is a morally good thing to do.  It will be a blockbuster hit because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.

The Twilight Series was a lighter version of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction.  But the bottom line of both series is the same — Good Girls fall in love with Bad Boys.  These particular series made the news because the individual books and movies reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful among women for hundreds of years.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3.  The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years.   When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction.  I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.

This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon.   I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. I’m thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism.  I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace.  Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life.  But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain hundreds in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation.  After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, millions of women would still run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey, while it is in many ways like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than a man’s for pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book/movie can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.

For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this may sound completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself.

There is something much better than secular coping mechanisms that are helpful in some ways and detrimental in others though.  Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. In Christ, women have the rescuer we need. We have a need to submit, and we need one who dominates our life.  But only One, Christ Himself, can fill those needs in a way that invites light, not shadow. I’m reminded in all this that we will offer our best solutions spiritually when we best understand the root issue.

My heart aches for women longing for their Christian Grey. That is not his real form, and he morphs into something dark and disturbing when you least expect it.  In Christ, we can recognize this dark fantasy for what it is and then move away from the dark towards the light to live in the real relationships God has given us.

It helps a lot if you understand Genesis 3:16.

This is a reworked version of a post I first wrote in 2012.

Friday Fundamentals – Dogma and Fear

Recently we have seen, both the threat of violence and the denunciation of that violence from the same source. Islamic believers. Different Islamic believers, I hasten to add but the common denominator is most definitely Islam.

The threat and/or manifestation of such violence and the correspondent denunciation of violence does two things for Islam. It expands the place of Islam at the table of civil discourse. This place is maintained because of the denouncement of violence and the general ‘religion of peace‘ vibe but this place is actually strengthened because of the threat or actualisation of violence.

I am not suggesting that the actors who violate and the actors who denounce the violation are in cahoots. I am just noting the obvious – Islam is in no way harmed and is in fact only helped by it having a minority – only numbering in the hundreds of millions as opposed to billions,  thus making it a minority  – who will threaten violence and a smaller number who will bring to fruition the rotten threat.

I have to say that what I am proposing only applies to western, liberal, secularising democracies. A government dominated by Hindu nationalists for example will tend to see the world of Islam differently and time will tell, though our confirmed liberals may never be able to tell for dogmatic reasons, how accurate the Hindu view is or isn’t.

So why does this strengthening of the place at the table occur? There are a couple of reasons. In the western, liberal, secularising democracies, the denunciation from some of the Islamic community is what those at the table want and need to hear. Need to hear – if they are to remain in any way confident about a possibly peaceful future. But also they are glad to hear and entertain it because to consider a lack of denunciation and it’s implications would be too nightmarish. Nightmarish – both in terms of future possible events but more immediately because it would challenge the very foundation of their non-negotiable assumptions about the world.

The liberal worldview posits the view that ‘others‘, like muslims, real muslims don’t and so the dogma goes, can’t actually pose any threat to anyone in anyway. The counterpart to this underestimation is the overestimation of who can be an actual threat – an enemy of the state. There is an enemy within – those still holding too firmly to the Judeo-Christian perspective. The Christians, real Christians, are alas not ‘other’ enough. Christianity is the mother, father, and forbear to the western, liberal, and now through mutation, secularising democracy. And like so many children in this age of individualism, the child has grown to hate it’s parent, it’s past, it’s heritage. Now the sole enemy is the dark shadow of the West’s previous self. At the table, the liberals look soley at their forebears with suspicion. Generally speaking, everyone else gets a free pass. There are no enemies without, only enemies within. The shameful, historical, hegemonic, did I say shameful, colonizers are the Christians. Muslims, gays and the new kids on the block, the transgenders are their victims. All new arrivals are innocent. Not by proof but by dogma.

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For source – click image

The dogma of seeking to accept and value ‘the other’ without prejudice and critique is both an ideal of brilliance and strength but fast becoming the fatal flaw of the Western liberal society. Consequently, at the table of civil discourse, Islam, no matter what happens, good or bad, near or far, gets a free pass, gets to drape itself in the flag of victimhood and those at the table gather round it, puts their arm gingerly around its shoulder and gives a look of unqualified, supportive comfort.
I have no objection to some support and comfort and there is certainly much good that comes from the world of Islam; but it’s the unqualified, uncritical, liberally dogmatic approach to Islam that is objectionable, to my mind. Objectionable, unwise and almost certainly unsafe.
But let’s get back to the table. The assertion is made that the place of peaceful Muslims at the table of civil society is actually strengthened by there being Muslims that threaten, kill or just express support for threateners and killers. Dogma aside, what else is at play that strengthens Islam’s place at the table? Fear. Clear and simple.
Non-Muslims at the table are actually, counter-intuitively, frightened of Muslims in general, and especially of the killing kind. This is primarily because they can’t quite fully bring themselves to trust Islam; the religion which lies behind both types of Muslims frequently on the minds of western people – the good Muslims and the bad ones. The good ones thankfully outnumber the bad ones. By the way, all this good and bad descriptors are not necessarily Islamic descriptors but common sense desciptors. But these descriptors are fluid in regard to at least the persons being referred to. Sadly, there are now too many examples of those men and now women, from stable, well resourced, peaceful Muslim families and communities who have turned into the other kind of Muslim. The killing kind. Yes, thankfully a minority. But regrettably growing in numbers and now increasingly even challenging the peaceful Muslims to the point of death, to engage in war against the infidels – the un, non and dis-believers. The non-muslim is not even a muslim and then there’s the wrong kind of muslim – off with all their heads! Just like in the good old days.
Fear of any community or group can have the same effect as living, working or schooling with a bully. You give them a wide berth when you can and more room when you have to. They end up with getting their requirements met more easily and more often than others. Why is this? Because people are afraid of the consequences of not playing ball. Not playing ball, paying appropriate respect, not giving up what you thought was your reasonable entitlement, has consequences. Negative consequences.
Threats from one member of a family eases the way for other family members. Whether this is desired or not. Threats and violence even when denounced, still have a direct effect at the everyday table of generally peaceful people. There is a subconsious effect on all and a conscious effect on some at the table.
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For source – click image

Even at the table of light entertainment and sarcastic, cynical comedy, comedians don’t mock Muhammad or Islam. This is never out of respect and always out of fear. The brave ones, as one might call them on a very generous day, even admit this. Jimmy Carr – equally foul-mouthed and foul-minded, a man who wastes his God-given talents of wit and charisma – says on stage that his will to live prevents him making any kind of jokes which offend the person of Muhammad and then shows a cartoon of Jesus being …. I can’t actually finish this sentence. It’s so offensive. Jesus is my saviour and the Son of God. Jimmy Carr’s Saviour and the Son of God.
But Jimmy doesn’t respect or fear me as a Christian. He’s right not to fear me. Actually he doesn’t respect Muslims either but he does fear them. Not just the killing kind. But the book burning kind. Jimmy sells books and DVDs by the truckload. He really doesn’t want to spend his summer holidays with Salman Rushdie.
So dogma and fear combine to give peaceful Muslims a place of disproportionate strength and influence at the table of civil discourse; whether they want it or not, whether they dispise or regret this mechanism or not. Many, I’m sure regret this mechanism. It may be unislamic according to their brand of Islam but it is beyond their control. It just happens. It cannot not happen. The liberal uncritical dogmaticians with one eye closed permanently to the bad and the other eye optimistically open to the good lean in to ensure for Islam a place at the table (that’s good) and then automatically, unknowingly, expand that space and increase the deference for Islam (that’s bad). Dogma may be foundational but it is fear that is formative.
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For source – click image

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files

Over the next number of Tuesdays I am going to reblog a number of posts that respond to the pre-Christmas Newsweek slammathon on the Bible and Christianity. Although it was the pre-Christmas edition, it’s theme of ‘Christians and their everyday reading of the Bible stink, like really badly’, is not just for Christmas. It seems that it is for life.

The extensive Newsweek piece (8500 words – 14 pages), labelled by many as Newsweak because it was so badly researched, biased, unbalanced and unrepresentative of widely available credible scholarship is actaully a wonderful encapsulation of what a lot of people believe already. Typically this is because they’ve heard someone say the same sort of things many, many times before or read them somewhere like Newsweek – typically in the pre-Christmas or easter edition. Ever noticed that coincidence of the publishing industry.

So looking at thoughtful, thorough responses can be a useful exercise for the open-minded and edifying for the Christian believer.

Think

Before I link to a response to the piece, here is the link to the article which is available online by clicking here.

Go there, let it confirm some of your own thoughts, biases or whatever but then give New Testament scholar Michael Kruger a hearing by clicking his name. It’s part one of two responses by him. He is thoughtful, generous and corrective where he needs to be. Enjoy.