Devilish Diversions

I have posted a reflection on Luke 4 over on the Political Theology blog. Within it, I discuss the ways in which the devil sought to divert Christ from his mission and how Luke’s framing of the temptations of Christ illumine his greater calling.

The temptations faced by Christ are also faced by his Church. The Church too is presented with the temptation of accommodating itself to, while perhaps lightly ameliorating, the present sinful order. Rather than finding our source of life and our food in God’s word, whatever the pain of the vocation it sets before us, we desire the comfort of social standing, secure employment, leisure, material wealth, and the praise and friendship of our peers.

We might engage in well-regarded charitable efforts, support government programs, and the like, but would not countenance anything that might threaten our comfort, reputation, or economic security. We might render this sinful age more habitable, but never call any to look to another, greater city.

Then there is the temptation of submitting to this age’s powers and their means. We will pursue the kingdom by compromising it at its root, by adopting idolatrous loyalties and wicked means. We will countenance cruelty towards the alien and stranger, the killing of the infant in the womb, the waging of unjust wars, iniquitous and exploitative economic practices, the despoliation of the environment, the celebration of sexual immorality, racial hatred, or a host of other forms of wickedness as the acceptable cost of political power and influence. We will prostrate ourselves before the rulers of this present age, hoping that, if we only serve them, presidents, political parties, or other social institutions will give us the power that we desire.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Bible, Ethics, Ezekiel, Guest Post, Lent, Luke, NT, NT Theology, OT, Politics, Society, Theological | 2 Comments

Debating the Invisibility of the Church

Over on the Theopolis blog we recently started hosting conversations, with several posts engaging with a viewpoint over the course of a month. In our latest conversation, we are discussing the visibility and invisibility of the Church. My response to Peter Leithart’s post on the subject, which opened the conversation, has just been published here.

Perhaps we could think of the visible Church as the building site, and the invisible Church as the completed building. There are various things on any building site which do not belong to the building that is being formed, which must be removed before the project is concluded. There are various other materials that still need to be brought in to complete the building and several currently detached areas of construction that remain to be integrated.

The building is both visible and invisible in the building site. There is probably much that is obscured by scaffolding and hoardings, much that remains to be added to the edifice, some things to be demolished, and a lot of debris and refuse that need to be removed. Nonetheless, we ought to be able to see the building gradually taking shape, recognizing that, while it may be distinct from it temporally and otherwise, the building site is not detached from the completed building.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Church History, Controversies, Guest Post, The Church, Theological, Theopolis | 10 Comments

Being Biblical™: When the Bible Becomes a Brand

I have written a post over on the Davenant blog, in which I discuss some of the dangers in certain uses of the term ‘biblical’ in some conservative Reformed and evangelical circles.

The term ‘biblical’ has come to function as a sort of trademark, performing many of a trademark’s purposes. Biblical™ offers people the quality assurance of the trusted Christian brand, relieving people of the uncertainty and anxiety of having to determine the quality of things for themselves. We have biblical™ worldviews, biblical™ parenting, biblical™ business, biblical™ politics, biblical™ leadership, biblical™ counselling, and numerous other biblical™ institutions, techniques, ideas, and products. Like many trademarks, there is a labelling creep, as all the weight of the trademark is placed behind many products that are quite unworthy of it. Adherence to the trademark and its associated brand demonstrates that a person values radically authentic, 100% natural and organic biblical™ Christianity. It also serves as a social identifier, a sign of belonging to the tribe of Bible-believing™, gospel-centred™ Christians.

Given the consumerist form of contemporary Western society, it is not entirely surprising that the term ‘biblical’ has come to function in such a manner. However, the shift has been accelerated by the ideologization of Christian belief I have described. In both cases, we see a very complex array of judgments being simplified in the direction of a single value choice. Ideologies tend to collapse the task of deliberation into that of reflection, the determination of the right into our knowledge of the good. Provided that we are committed to the correct fundamental value—the Bible!—we need not trouble ourselves overmuch with the task of working out what commitment to that looks like in messy realm of practice. Biblical™ worldview assures us that correct practice follows fairly directly from value and, indeed, a great deal of biblical™ teaching declares what such practice ought to be to those who hold the value.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Christian Experience, Controversies, Culture, Davenant Institute, Ethics, Guest Post, Hermeneutics, Scripture, Theological | 1 Comment

Transcriptions

Things have been fairly quiet around here lately, unfortunately. However, I have been producing regular videos/podcasts over on my other blog. One of the things that I have been hoping to do is to produce transcriptions of all of my videos, so that people without the time to watch a video or listen to a podcast can read a transcript.

A number of supporters and listeners have voluntarily transcribed videos for me over the last few months. You can see a complete list of my videos/podcasts here, with those which have been transcribed highlighted.

Several people have expressed interest in transcripts to me, but transcription takes a great deal of time, time which I do not have to spare right now. I would love to provide transcripts for every one of my videos, but people will either have to volunteer to transcribe videos for me, or help me to pay for the services of someone who is able to do so.

Recently, a professional transcriber contacted me and offered her services on a trial basis. I have been very impressed with the quality and consistency of her work and would like to be able to pay her appropriately in the future.

If you are at all interested in making this possible, please consider supporting or donating using my Patreon or PayPal accounts. New sponsorship and donations are being earmarked for this specific purpose.

I am also still looking for anyone who would like to volunteer to transcribe a particular video, or to transcribe on a more occasional or regular basis.

I would also like to thank my existing supporters, who have really made it possible for me both to do what I do, and to consider expanding in various ways. None of this would be happening without them. I am also really appreciative of any feedback, particularly constructive feedback, critical or otherwise, that will help me to improve things in the future. Please keep the suggestions coming!

Posted in Podcasts, Public Service Announcement | 2 Comments

Learning Wisdom from the Serpents

I’ve written a post over on the Theopolis blog, in response to a piece by Dr David Field, in which he discusses some of the issues he will be exploring in his forthcoming Theopolis intensive course. Within it, I consider how we should approach the task of learning wisdom from non-Christians.

Christian counselling is an area where many of the tensions between different Christian epistemologies have played out. Dr Field’s position appears quite different from that of the nouthetic or biblical counselling movement, for instance, which has emphasized a radical antithesis between Bible-based counselling and unbelieving psychology, the former grounded firmly upon Scripture and the latter deriving and fundamentally compromised by antichristian presuppositions. In contrast, Dr Field’s approach seems to be more integrationist, testing, weighing, and critically appropriating aspects of non-Christian psychology within an approach fundamentally committed to Christian truth, yet not entirely derived from Scripture. This may not promise the same security as the quarantine chamber of a system exhaustively derived from Scripture, but it may enable us to engage with a far more extensive reality. While his approach is not exhaustively derived from it, what Dr Field most definitely is not offering, however, is a vision of psychology essentially untethered from Christian truth.

Where psychology and counselling have been pursued from a confidence in biblical authorization and the tidiness of a neat biblicist system, yet without the extensive experience and skill that wisdom requires, the result has often proved very damaging. Dr Field’s approach, by immediately bringing us into contact with serpents like Freudianism and Zen Buddhism, provokes a sense of profound danger and trepidation. This sense is a very healthy one: psychology and counselling are dealing with dark, dangerous, and deceitful realities and, unless we approach it with care and caution, our actions can prove destructive. Wisdom moves us beyond the enclosed and domesticated realm of the garden and into the wider world, where we must deal with dangerous and untamed beasts with shrewdness and skill, not merely with the more binary categories of the Law that are most prominent in our childhood.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Controversies, Creation, Ethics, Philosophy, Revelation, Scripture, Theological, Theopolis | 2 Comments

New Theopolis Curious Cat Account!

Leave your questions here, and Peter Leithart and I will try to answer them in forthcoming podcast episodes!

Posted in Public Service Announcement | 1 Comment

Justice Discourse in the Internet Age, Part 3: Abstract Justice

The delayed third instalment of my series on justice in the Internet Age has been posted over on the Davenant Institute’s blog (see the first two parts here and here).

Abstraction affords us a way of relating our particular contexts, experiences, and identities to something that transcends them. As the virtual realm becomes increasingly determinative of our identities, it also offers a way of relating to our concrete contexts, regarding them ideologically, in terms of more abstract ideas and categories.

The ability to abstract from the particularity of experience is by no means a bad thing per se. Through abstraction, at the temporary expense of some resolution, we can often more easily discern patterns and connections between things. However, where the resolution that enables us to perceive particularity is not just temporarily sacrificed, but is more permanently lost, abstraction can become a much more vicious process. Rich realities are reduced to threadbare and colourless ideas, or mere instantiations of generic entities. People are reduced to homogeneous groups and types.

And, beyond the de-particularization encouraged by media where we must represent ourselves in terms of generic categories and templates, there is an intensified social pull towards abstraction. Abstraction offers the potential for connection, to render your reality and experience in terms that highlight commonality. Whereas in our local contexts commonality and connection are often found precisely in particularity, in the non-local context of the Internet, these things more frequently present themselves to be sought through abstraction.

Read the whole thing here.

 

Posted in Culture, Davenant Institute, Ethics, Guest Post, Technology | Leave a comment