Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BBC Documentary on Anglicanism

I just finished watching the BBC Documentary on the state of the Anglican Communion (available on BBC iPlayer this week, only if you’re based in the UK). For the most part I thought that the BBC journalist tried his best to be fair-minded and to accurately characterise views on both sides, but I think that ultimately, he just found it too difficult to penetrate the worldview of the “conservative” side. You could tell that from some of his facial expressions in his interview with Archbishop Akinola and from the concluding voiceover statements (which I’m assuming is him).

Indeed, the difference in outlook is huge between all those involved, the “conservative” side, the “liberal” side, and the supposedly “objective” BBC journalist, and really shows up the limitations of the medium of the media. For example, after we get Akinola insisting on the primacy of the Bible, we then get the journalist looking up Leviticus 18:22, musing over why, if the Bible is so clear, there is such an uproar in the Anglican Communion. This is followed by a soundbite from the liberal Dean of Southwark Cathedral, who decries this prooftexting method as being disrespectful to Scripture. I actually agreed with what the Dean said here, but the implicit conclusion we are to draw from this was that all conservatives all read the Bible this way. Now I have no idea how the Nigerian Archbishop supports his conclusions exegetically, but I’m doubtful that his reading habits are as crass as that. But a discussion on hermeneutics isn’t going to make for riveting TV is it? There were some good soundbites from the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen as well, on individualism and community in Western society, but he couldn’t unpack his statements nor address both his own presuppositions and that of others, allowing the narrator to wonder that for all Jensen’s comments on community, surely he was excluding at least one group: homosexual people? That’s a good and legitimate question to ask, but the question is left hanging – I would hope that off-camera, Jensen and the journalist had a more substantial discussion! But from the perspective of the television viewer, the implication is again, that of hypocrisy.

There are moments like this throughout the documentary, and again I had to think of the gap that lay between the worldview of your average African Christian and that of your average secular Westerner: what would the latter have made of the language of spiritual warfare, I wonder? Also, while I believe that culture should never displace Scripture at the centre, I did think that some of the misunderstandings are cross-cultural at heart. The way Akinola preaches for example, I think, is shaped by his African roots and could be off-putting to some, although I think the content of what he preaches, of course, transcends cultures. (Perhaps 1 Peter 3:15-16 is a challenge to him?) And I think because Africans don’t have to deal as much with the legacy of the Enlightenment and of postmodernism, there is a sense in which they perhaps might not realise how some people are really grappling with difficult questions. The same goes the other way, of course. The Africans are clearly passionate about mission, and in a place where death and demons rule, it is no wonder they want to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and there is hope of life beyond the grave.

This is still a pretty good documentary for more background information on the Anglican Communion, which btw, is the largest Protestant denomination in the world! We hear often about the global spread of Pentecostalism but there are millions of Anglicans in Africa and Latin American and Asia as well. The story of Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi of Jos is worth hearing. Tom Wright had pretty harsh words for his own side. It was nice to hear somebody in sympathy with liberal views be charitable to the conservative side (another British journalist who was addressing a gay pride rally, in contrast to the Bishop of Washington who decried conservatives as demonic). And the documentary accurately highlights the true division: the authority of Scripture and what role it should play. For the liberals, it is generosity that should be the ultimate value: one couple opined that some believers are against the gay lifestyle, some are for, and well, that’s fine, they should worship side by side. John Stott, though, in a different context, captures the ideal conservative attitude with characteristic brevity:

"We need to distinguish between the tolerant mind and the tolerant spirit. Tolerant in spirit a Christian should always be, loving, understanding, forgiving and forbearing others, making allowances for them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, for true love ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ [1 Cor. 13:7]. But how can we be tolerant in mind of what God has plainly revealed to be either evil or erroneous?” (Christ the Controversialist, pub. 1970).
The debate, of course, is over the phrase “plainly revealed”. That is where the battle for the Bible lies today.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Incarnational mission?

Tim Chester has good thoughts on incarnational mission. He isn't critiquing so much the laudable impulse behind such practitioners - meeting people where there are / all-of-life discipleship - as seeking to clarify our use of terminology. I know some might ask, what's the big deal? but I am a believer in the need to be careful with our words, because language can play a big part in shaping our assumptions.

{HT: Stephen Murray)

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Top 10 food scenes in children's lit

here. Anyone who's read Enid Blyton will remember all those midnight feasts and ginger ale!

(HT: Sharon L)

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I went for my MA graduation ceremony today - the main reason my parents are in town. I got to briefly see my supervisor, who must be in the running to be named one of the nicest persons on Earth. The other surprise was to discover that he had submitted my thesis for some award; I didn't win, but it was nice to know that he thought pretty highly of it (although I think he's being too nice!).

So it's almost time to turn the page, I'm moving back to the City of Dreaming Spires in a month!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Resurrection Messiah myth

Haven't followed this closely at all. In fact, I don't remember seeing it reported much in the media here. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, here's the story. Anyway, am not really perturbed by it, since we get something like this every once in a while, but just thought I'll mention it along with some observations from Darrell Bock, well-known Jesus scholar. Another resource I'll recommend is Jesus: Lord or Legend?, from the pens of Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy, as it is pretty strong on the relationship between Jesus and the myths of the day.

Also, rather randomly, have recently thought more about why resurrection matters - that it doesn't just vindicate Jesus as Lord, but also acts as a seal (guarantee) of the resurrection of his people on the final day, and as a sign pointing towards the kingdom restored. I noticed too that there is actually more stress on the resurrection in the proclaimation of the gospel in the NT than I thought. Haven't really thought that through though.

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Friday, July 11, 2008


"I don't think my parents liked me. They put a live teddy bear in my crib." - Woody Allen
...are around from tomorrow. It'll be good to see them. (And no, I didn't have a teddy bear, but I did have that KFC mascot - what's he called again, Chickie?)

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Monday, July 07, 2008

More books

Before I go on to some of the other books, I just wanted to write a little more on Chester’s. I was thinking about the title of his book, which is admittedly, a little odd – it even has a whiff of self-help about it, a notion which will no doubt horrify Tim. (Is this a secret agenda to sneak the title into mainstream bookstores? :-> ) But I guess the title is meant to communicate hope: You, the reader, can change. It’s possible! And as my friend pointed out, it isn’t titled You will change, as in any other number of books that promises a fail-safe formula. More than that, though, I was wondering, and it’s possible that I’m making a leap too far, whether "You" could be referring not (only) to the reader, but to God, as in, it’s not the nature of God which changes, but it is God who can bring about change in us, which is in keeping with the content of his book. Of course, the absence of an object on which the verb acts upon might shoot my theory to bits. By now you’re wondering why I’m tying my boxers in a knot over this – I blame it on another book I’m reading further down this post.

I was really struck reading Chester’s chapter: 'How can we support one another in changing?' today though. I know that although I do pay lip service to the role of the Christian community, it is true that I often think of personal holiness as between me and God. But Chester is quite clear that the church needs to be a community of openness and repentance. It is full of messy people with messy lives, especially when we remember Jesus words that he came not for those who are well, but the sick. Yet at the same time we should not "stroke" the sin, but to, as Chester puts it, "accept people with God’s agenda for change". I know that while I have no problems with the idea of confessing sin before God, I think I would find it much harder to confess sin to one another, something which does have biblical warrant (not the same thing as confessing sin to every single person though!). Similarly, I know that I’m not very good at confronting others.

The thing about Chester’s book is that it’s clear, simple and most Christians would probably agree with most of it, until they realise that if they actually think what it would look like in the “real” world, ouch. But it’s a necessary kind of ouch because, as Tim unflaggingly points out, it’s nothing compared to the riches found in Jesus.

A Bird’s Eye View of Paul – Michael F. Bird
I’ve read through and/or listened to a sermon series on every Pauline book in the last 4 or so years; I’ve even led Bible studies on one or two myself! (Well, not including his own biography, i.e Acts). So I thought it would be nice to grab a title just to synthesise some of the things I’ve been picking up from Paul. This was advertised as an introductory book, conversant with the best recent scholarship, by one of the rising stars in biblical studies, so it seemed ideal, especially as the other more heavyweight titles (Gorman, Schreiner) were probably too much too soon.

I liked it. The first half is especially good, as he paints Paul as persecutor, missionary, theologian, pastor and martyr, and then shows the connection between the OT and the Pauline literature, that is, salvation-history. There are a few chapters on the gospel, with perhaps more stress on the diachronic, or in other words, the creation-fall-redemption-glorification schema than the holy God-sinful man-Saviour Christ-our response presentation. One of his best points, with which I am in full agreement, is that the gospel can’t just be reduced to “Jesus is king/Lord” as some circles currently do, because we need to know that Jesus shows his kingly power in the most paradoxical way, by giving himself up in the place of our sins. There is also discussion about the key terms in Paul, such as justification, righteouness, etc, plus stuff about Jesus and Caesar.

There were some things I didn’t understand on a first reading. I found his chapter on ethics quite difficult, and couldn’t, for instance, understand what his reading of Romans 7 was. It seemed to me that he was charting a 3rd way beyond the two main interpretive routes but I could be completely misreading him!

The Undercover Economist – Tim Harford
I did take Econs at A Levels but haven’t touched it since, so felt like I needed a refresher. Harford writes for the Financial Times here, and he uses real-life examples to illuminate basic concepts here like scarcity, comparative advantage and so on. I think the value in this book lies especially in his applied egs., and he certainly opened my eyes on a few things – externalities played a bigger role in the thinking of economists that I realise! I also don’t think the book went overboard in extolling the free market, although there’s no doubt Harford is very much in favour. Those trained in economics might find things oversimplified, but it’s a good read for laypeople like me.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
A third of the book in, I wasn’t impressed. This book has been lavished with many superlatives, you know, great postcolonial novel blahblahblah. She’s a good writer, since the words obviously flow easily on the page, but I was thinking to myself, this is supposed to be great characterisation? But at the end of it, I was won over. It’s not the greatest book ever, but it is good.

Is it an attack on Christianity? No, I don’t think so. Nathan Price is enough of a singularity to convince me otherwise – Kingsolver has us peek into his past as a shattered soldier who’s obviously haunted by the war, and seeks atonement in his newfound vocation as a preacher. His venture into the Congo is not sanctioned by the Missions Board, and tell me, which Baptist preacher actually thinks the Apocrypha should be in the Bible? That’s enough to signal to me that he’s not to be taken as representative of the entire Christian missionary endeavour. But that isn’t to exonerate that endeavour completely from its colonial form. There’s one especially arresting scene where the village elder holds an election to decide whether they should follow Jesus, which was a superb if ironic way of framing how Christianity and Western trappings, in this case liberal democratic values, can end up enmeshed in a such a way as to take on a damaging form. Kingsolver, who grew up in the Congo, is certainly critical of the colonial project, and at the end, she doesn’t really offer up a huge vision of hope.

This book made me think again of the poverty of fiction writers with an evangelical worldview. Fiction is a good litmus test of culture as well as a shaper of it, and while I certainly think that there’s no reason Christian characters can’t be portrayed critically, there is a sense in which I do think that it is no wonder evangelicals are misrepresented so heavily if we do not offer up any compelling counter-narratives. There are plenty of Catholics, where are the Protestants? I can think of Marilynn Robinson and Gilead but no others in recent memory.

The Stuff of Thought – Steven Pinker
I’m still slowly reading this. This is one of those books that make your brain ache. Pinker is a popular (in both senses of the word) science writer who’s written extensively on the relation between language and cognition, eg. The Language Instinct. There’s a reason he’s popular, he’s brilliant at explaining things. But the subject matter is such that you can’t avoid needing to use your brain.

What he does is examine closely a lot of our language and its relation to time and space and reality. Why do we “fill a glass with water” but not “pour a glass with water”? The former puts the emphasis on what is happening to the glass, whereas the latter is more concerned with the state of the liquid. It’s this kind of minuscule details that Pinker examines and pushes, and in doing so shows the implications of how we think and interpret the world. I noticed that some of my friends, when they do memes, like to exploit the ambiguities in some of the questions so as to answer in a way which avoids the design of the meme, and Pinker explores stuff like that as well. Think about the word “now”, what timeframe is it exactly referring to? And so on. Pinker does use jargon though, although he always explains them, but it doesn’t take me long to lose track of what a dative-container or pluperfect tense is! I just recently finished reading the chapter 'Cleaving the Air' and that was very hard work. I probably won’t remember very much. The point of Pinker’s book, I think, though, is not so much to remember facts but in pushing you to think about language and thought in a fresh way. For a better review of the book, see that of one of my former lecturers, Deborah Cameron.

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Federer-Nadal Wimbledon 2008

Sadly, no TV = not even a single Wimbledon match watched this year!


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Prince Caspian: The Verdict

This post full of spoilers, although I doubt it matters.

I finally got round to watching Caspian last night. I've previously written on the Caspian film and the mixed reaction to it. Knowing that the film had taken plenty of liberties with the story turned out to be a good thing, as it meant that I went in with appropriate expectations and took the movie on its own terms. And I did enjoy it, although my friend, who did not know about the changes beforehand, was pretty disappointed. So, updates on my previous thoughts:
  • When I first saw Georgie Henley in the first film, I thought she was too young to be Lucy; she turned out to be just about the best thing in LWW. It's the same here, it's a great delight to know that such a winning character is being portrayed so well (even if she still looks a little too young!)
  • Fear of mischaracterisation #1: Reepicheep. Verdict: Relieved. I was so afraid that Reepicheep had been turned into the rodent version of Shrek's Donkey, but actually I think they got him largely right. Perhaps there should be a touch more chivalry in his speech mannerisms, but that's a minor quibble.
  • I liked that they fleshed out Miraz's lords more. At first, I thought that they were perhaps even planting seeds for Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in that book, we discover that Miraz has been up to shenanigans concerning some of the Narnian lords), but even though they didn't go down that direction, I think that was a good eg. of how additions in a film adaptation can help the story.
  • Trufflehunter and Nikabrik were also portrayed correctly, although they aren't hard to cast; the former being the calm voice of reason, the latter impatient and devious.
  • Fear of mischaracterisation #2: Trumpkin. Verdict: Disappointed, although it wasn't as bad as feared. Trumpkin is a skeptic. He's naturally pessimistic. He's gruff. But underneath all that, you know he's loyal and he's good. I think he's the most complicated character of the trio (the other two being the above) but still... The fault lay in how they changed the way he's introduced. He's not skeptical that old Narnia existed, just bitter in the belief that his Narnian forbearers abandoned them. It's a big disappointment that we don't get to see the ironic scene where Trumpkin fails to recognise that he has found the very help he's sought! They correct his character somewhat in the 2nd half of the film, for instance where he supports Lucy as they cross the river. But it's too little too late. When Susan and Lucy call him their "DLF", unlike in the book, it was not believable. The ending scene where Trumpkin bows before Aslan is impotent because unlike in the book, we get no sense that Trumpkin was previously doubtful of Aslan, his majesty and his power.
  • Another change - Susan's horn in the book is meant only to be able to call for help, but it doesn't specify what kind of help would arrive. In the film, it's specifically meant to be able to call the Penvensies back. It's a subtle change, but I think it does change the texture of the story somewhat: the form of help received comes predetermined, whereas in the book, the "New" Narnians just wasn't sure what to expect.
  • I liked the interchange between the Penvensies, it really felt like they were siblings.
  • Arguably the biggest disapppointment of the night: the pivotal scene where Lucy believes she sees Aslan where the others don't is given short shrift here. In the book, the rest begin to see Aslan one by one, and Peter humbles himself before Aslan, telling him: "Oh Aslan, I've been leading them all wrong."
  • They played up the tension between Peter and Caspian in the book more. It's there in the book as well, but doesn't feature so much, probably because of the penitential scene that I just mentioned above. As I've also mentioned before, I don't actually mind that they did this, but it's a shame that it meant that they cut the scene above. In playing this up, though, I do feel it had a significant effect on the contours of the film's narrative, eg. the cutting of the scene above and setting the stage for the entirely uncanonical storming of the castle.
  • It also involved changing the scene where Nikabrik conjures up the White Witch, but although on one level I would have preferred the original, I did like the way they did this scene, with Edmund destroying the source of temptation, and Peter's formerly obscured view of Aslan coming starkly into view.
  • The romance between Caspian and Susan wasn't too bad either - it was kept to a minimum and seemed to be there purely on the grounds of pleasing some higher-ups who deem that a romance angle is necessary to please the audience.
  • I've been talking about disappointing scenes; well, I was really pleased with the one-to-one fight between Miraz and Peter. That's exactly how I pictured it.
  • Caspian, I think, also suffered a little from the Trumpkin treatment. Because we don't get to see his sessions with Professor Cornelius, we fail to get a better-rounded picture of him. Apart from being the wronged heir, do we really get a sense of what makes him tick?
  • Aslan doesn't get too much airtime, but most of his lines do at least survive intact. I thought I wouldn't like the dream sequence, but now I'm more agnostic about it - it dosn't detract as much from the story as the Lucy seeing Aslan scene.
  • Ultimately, I think the film does suffer a bit from what I shall call the LOTR Syndrome. In its haste to get to the big climatic battle scenes, they sacrificed bits of characterization and story. Now the book does have a big climatic battle at the end (more so, I thought, than LWW), so I don't mind that payoff. But Narnia is not LOTR. Do we really need that castle-storming scene?
  • But I did enjoy the movie. And I'm a bit of a sucker for hopeful, uplifting songs that manipulatetug at your emotions when it's time for the happy ending. I've been unable to get Regina Spektor's 'The Call' out of my head today. Isn't this song begging for that crescendo, complete with backing orchestra? :-p

P/S I reread Steven Greydanus's review after watching the film and it's still the best thing out there.

PP/S I wrote all of the above things without having the benefit of the book near me so am recalling entirely from memory. Tell me if I've got something wrong!

PPP/S Maybe I'll bump into Anna Popplewell (Susan) when I'm in Oxford! (She's currently studying Eng Lit at Magdalen, coincidentally, C.S Lewis' old college).

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Book roundup

I've recently updated my reading list on the sidebar, but I wanted to say a bit more about each of them than the margins allowed. It's nice to be able to rediscover the joys of reading in the past couple of weeks, like tasting mum's homemade cooking after a long absence. More than I care for this year, tedium has held forth like an oppressive tyrant over the written word, locking the gates to the promised treasures that comes from getting lost in a good book.

1. You can Change - Tim Chester. If we were to trace the genealogy of this book, we would probably discover that its dad is Transforming Grace, its mum The Pursuit of Holiness, both by Jerry Bridges, its grandpa J.C Ryle's Holiness and its ancestors the Puritans. Chester has written a book that never loses sight of the basic fact that it is ultimately God, through the cross of Christ and the work of the Spirit, who changes us. Tim Keller calls this book neither quietistic nor moralistic, but still practical, and that is praise indeed.

This is a bit of a tangent, but one of the things that I've noticed is that Chester appears to have very deliberately kept things simple. Nothing is assumed, and short sentences are the norm. Chester is no theological slouch, he has written a well-regarded book on the relation of social action to the gospel after all. But he's also a hands-on practitioner as a church planter, and he has previously reflected on reaching "non-book people", i.e those who are often intimidated by the written word because of a disadvantaged educational background etc., so I wonder if that has fed into his adopted writing style.

And that's a good thing. I think a precocious 12-year old could get through this book, yet it is truly insightful even for long-time Christians. For eg., in asking "why would you like to change?", Chester offers 3 possible answers. The first two perhaps aren't so surprising: to prove ourselves to God, and/or to prove ourselves to other people. But his third answer: to prove myself to myself, i.e to feel good about ourselves, to feel as if we've not let ourselves down was an astute observation, I've never thought about before. There's more stuff like this.

I was actually going through this book at a fairly quick clip before I realised that I needed to slow down if I didn't want to be the target of Edmund Burke's sardonic remark that "reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting"! So that's what I've been trying to do. It will almost certainly be reread, and copies given away. Tim Chester talks about his book here.

2. Worshipping Trinity - Robin Parry. Wow! I really enjoyed this one, devouring it in one sitting. I've seen this recommended in more than one place as a great introductory book to the Trinity (UCCF's Mike Reeves included), so when I saw that it was available on the cheap, I gave it a go. I had previously attempted to get through Bruce Ware's Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and I know I'm in the minority here, but I found that book dull, dull, dull. Parry, IMHO, has written a much better book.

Parry's basic idea is that "worship is about God and God is the Trinity, therefore worship is about the Trinity." From there he takes us on a theological journey which is amazingly lucid and accessible. He shows us how the Trinity matters in creation, salvation, mission, and holy living, to name just a few. He also homes in on worship songs, partly because I think Parry, a self-confessed "mild charismatic", is writing for a mainstream charismatic-leaning Christian audience, and so this is an especially effective way of showing us the relevance of the Trinity. It's not exhaustive, as he doesn't discuss, say, the historical development of the doctrine, but confines it to the biblical material. Again, like Chester, Parry obviously knows his stuff (the endnotes are full of citations of academic works, not all of them evangelical), but he keeps it simple.

Definite recommendation.

3. God's Lesser Glory - Bruce Ware. This isn't on the sidebar, but I feel a bit bad about impugning on Dr. Ware's good name in the previous section, so I should say that this is very readable and nothing like his book on the Trinity. This is a defence against open theism, the view that holds that God does not exhaustively know the entire future, from a Calvinistic perspective. It's definitely more dense, since a good deal of it is exegetical discussion. In his introduction, Ware states that "this book is unkind to open theism. I hope it is not unkind to open theists" and I think he is successful in that regard. He is firm and unapologetic that open theism is a dangerous view, but I think he was always gentlemanly to his opponents. To me, and again, I read it (too) quickly, his case is convincing. Ware doesn't stop at the level of exegesis however, as he shows how devastating open theism is pastorally, applying it to areas of prayer and guidance. Ware has also written a more pastorally oriented, layperson-friendly book, Their God is Too small, that summarises his arguments here.

I'll stop for now and talk about a couple more books in my next post. :)

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Bible and Other Faiths 11

For previous entries, just click on The Bible and Other Faiths label at the end of this post.

Facing Samaritan Religion

There’s not much about the Samaritans in the Bible, but what we hear about matters, because they touch on something key to our relationships with people of other faiths: prejudice and hostility. That is IG’s basis for including this short chapter. To put it mildly, Jews and Samaritans did not get along with each other! The origins of Samaritan religion appear to be syncretistic, where worship of Yahweh is mixed with worship of other gods. During post-exilic times, they had wanted to help in the rebuilding of the temple but were not allowed to, although they could join in the Passover should they renounce foreign gods.

We’re not sure if the Samaritans found in the NT should be identified with the former group. In some ways, the Samaritans in the NT were very similar to other Jewish groups, worshipping Yahweh and exalting the Torah. It’s certainly possible that the enmity between the Jews and Samaritans owed as much to socio-political factors as to ethnic or religious differences. The Samaritans had their own temple, their own priesthood, and their own version of the Pentateuch. Since these are key to the religion of the Jews, the divide is therefore pretty stark.

We now go to the well-known passage in John 4, where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. This story is often used to illustrate the way Jesus transcends barriers, but more than that, in its context, it is also an apt illustration of how Samaritans fit into God’s plans. The Samaritan woman, in John’s Gospel, is the first person to hear Jesus declare that He is the Messiah. She is also contrasted with Nicodemus, in John 3, as one who is willing to witness publicly to Jesus. In his conversation, Jesus also shows that the temple no longer matters, but "worship in Spirit and truth". The questions about religious practice is a wrong one; what is needed is new birth.

IG takes us now to Luke-Acts and the history of the early church. The disciples are to witness in Samaria (Acts 1:8) among other places! What a joy it must have been to go there and find receptive ears and hearts! Luke has already understood God’s mission to the whole world, however, since he has recorded some of Jesus’ significant encounters with the Samaritans in his Gospel. In Luke 9:51-56, he goes through Samaria but finds himself rejected, and so his disciples react: let’s call down fire upon them! But Jesus rebukes them, he seeks not to meet prejudice with prejudice. “This incident comes at a very significant point in Luke’s Gospel: it is the first thing that happens after Jesus sets out for Jerusalem and the cross. It is immediately followed by the teaching on the cost of following Jesus.” Opposition from the Samaritans, in a sense, is part of his journey towards the cross.

The next story is the famous parable on the good Samaritan, but we should also be reminded that Jesus includes Samaritans in his healing ministry, as in Luke 17:11-19. The Samaritan healed here actually responds better than many of the Jews, and we can also find instances of this in the other gospels.

A short survey that almost functions as an appendice to the previous chapter. It’s interesting to note that mentions of Samaritans in the Bible tend to be favourable! I'm trying to think of who we can regard as analogous to the Samaritans as Christians today, but couldn't come up with anything beyond maybe Christians of a different denomination that perhaps historically we might have disagreements with, maybe over an issue that in retrospect, is trivial. What do you think?

Reflection questions:
Are there any people that Christians in your area think of as the Jews did of the Samaritans? What are the reasons for hostility and suspicion? How can John 4 speak into your situation?

Jesus dealt with prejudice among his own people and against his own people. How did this prepare disciples for their future mission? How can the church in your area be prepared for mission across barriers of prejudice and hostility?

Facing the Gentile religions

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The wrap: summer edition

T Vintage LEGO Letter H E
stained glass W scribbly R A Pewter Ransom Font P
Bumper summer edition. Web-surfing made easy.

I suppose there are two major news stories which have dominated headlines in recent days in the UK and Malaysia respectively. The former concerns the recently concluded Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), which, not surprisingly, has attracted much comment. Unfortunately reading the mainstream media on this is almost next to useless since it's difficult, I think, for journalists to get a handle on the rather complex situation in the Anglican Communion; inevitably, many of them frame the issue in terms of power struggles or homophobia. Btw, I don't claim to have a handle on all things Anglican either, and in some ways, it's stuff like this that convinces me I'll never be one, it's just so distracting! The key thing to remember is that the issue is not primarily about homosexuality but about biblical authority and mission. After all, wasn't the keynote lecture at GAFCON from Professor Lamin Sanneh on the inherent cultural translability of the gospel?(See too, for eg., Dr. Vinay Samuel's letter earlier this year responding to charges of agenda-setting by white European males).

I was also quite disappointed that the normally level-headed Ruth Gledhill, probably the best religious correspondent in the UK, displayed some unusual 'chronological snobbery' in a blog post on J.I Packer. To be fair to her, GAFCON: A closer look is probably more representative of her work. (Am slightly bemused to see St. Helen's described as ultra-conservative, though, although given that I once also thought that way, understandable). Chris Sugden, a key player in the discussions, was given some space in the Guardian to briefly attempt to show what GAFCON is really all about. For an insider viewpoint, along with the full statement released at the end of the conference, you can see Tony Payne's report. There was also a meeting yesterday at All Souls to help communicate what was achieved and you can find interviews online with Henry Orombi, Greg Venables, Peter Jensen and J.I Packer, plus a panel discussion. Tom Wright, who is the most senior evangelical Anglican bishop, has a sympathetic but not uncritical response. All this talk about parallel jurisdictions make my head spin...

Back home in Malaysia of course, it's not pleasant to see Malaysia plunged into a fresh state of uncertainty thanks to the fresh allegations made against the charismatic opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. It's hard to believe that the government, beleaguered as it is, will score such a massive own-goal, so there must be more than meets the eye here. Malaysian politics is often associated with sandiwara (shadow-play), and that again appears to be the case. Not surprisingly, everyone has a favourite conspiracy theory. I'm one of those very much inclined to give Anwar a second chance but I think he's guilty of some showboating in this particular instance. Malik Imtiaz's stream-of-consciousness post, Trial of Democracy, is worth reading. I've been finding some of the commentaries available at The Malaysian Insider helpful - see Anwar has to straddle credibility gap and These are confusing and uncertain days. I haven't seen any explicitly Christian commentary, although there are brief mentions at The Micah Mandate.

But they did have an earlier commentary which I thought was helpful: MCA doesn't = Chinese, UMNO doesn't = Malays etc.

I thought this was quite sad: Christian students struggle with Christianity. We all could do better.

Insightful post from Ben Myers: The pornographer's dream; or the problem with contemporary worship. Don't be put off by the title, it isn't quite about what you may think it is.

We can all benefit from John Stackhouse's meditations on envy.

David Fitch has started reading David Wells's The Courage to be Protestant and has some musings along the way, defending a more emerging ethos over against the "young, restless and reformed" approach. The comment thread has good dialogue as well.

Review of Pixar's latest cinematic masterpiece, WALL-E. Btw, I was told not to look at Ebert's review as it apparently has a major spoiler!

Al Mohler on the challenge of attention in the digital age, and related to this, the NY Review of Books also has a very good longer piece: The Library in the Digital Age. Hmmmm, come to think of it, isn't The Wrap guilty of contributing to our shortened attention spans?

Fascinating profile of rookie Joe Alexander, an amazing athlete who was raised in China, recently drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.

English is English, or is it?

I married a stranger. Feature article on a couple who married barely 4 weeks after they met. Did their relationship survive? (I know, I know, sounds like something that belongs to Hello! Magazine and not this erudite blog, but it was very interesting!)

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