Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weightlifting 2010 vs 2011

Well, I try not to turn this blog into too much personal stuff, but it's that time of year, so I thought apart from exegesis of Galatians, you might like to hear about my lifting progress.

I've been training consistently all year, but in the last 3 months have become much more serious, and joined an online forum for support, motivation, and tips.

Today I've just achieved the last of my goals for Dec 2010:

Squat: 105kg (Goal was 95)
Deadlift: 125kg (Goal was 115)
Bench Press: 70kg (=Goal)
Military Press: 45kg (=Goal)

I have some pretty ambitious goals for 2011 though. After another year of consistent training, I'd like to see these figures:

Squat: 165kg
Deadlift: 185kg
Bench Press: 110kg
Military Press: 65kg

Monday, December 20, 2010

The problem with Logos sales

First, I want to say that I really appreciate Logos and its software platform and the vast amount of resources they make available. It's from that standpoint that I write.

But I do find their sales pitches a little bothersome at times. Telling me over and over how great a deal it is to by 2010 titles at 97% off, is a little disingenuous. Firstly, nobody is ever going to read all those 2010 titles. Secondly, the quality of those titles varies greatly, so that not all 2010 titles are worth owning. Thirdly, Even if you decided to take advantage of the sub-deals, there's not really the means for sorting and processing that many titles to work out what is worth owning. Now, there certainly are benefits of owning masses of electronic volumes, all searchable, but in terms of usefulness + searchability + manageability, vast numbers of titles I'm unfamiliar with don't actually help me that much. Which is why simply focusing on the cost vs. print volumes is rarely persuasive.

Also, employment. Or what 2011 will look like.

I believe it's been formally announced, so I can also inform the internet.

I've taken a position as an assistant minister for 2011. It's a 12mth position, leaving my wife and I free to head off to Mongolia the following year. I'm also putting together my doctoral proposal, hoping to start studies in February. I think I have a topic, in the area of creeds, councils, and the late 4th/5th century.My wife will be doing some theological study as we prepare for Mongolia.

It's good to have things sorted and a bit more settled. I'm really looking forward to the ministry position, I think it will be an excellent year. I'm also looking forward to getting started in the doctoral studies. Actually, an exciting year all round. There's also heavy weights to be lifted, and languages to be excelled in!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Copyright, Mars Hill, and Music

Tim Smith, the worship pastor at Mars Hill, is writing some genuinely insightful posts over at the Resurgence. Starting with, Thank God Jesus didn't copyright the gospel, which is a telling title if ever there was one (take note German Bible Society!), and explores in a very preliminary way the control copyright puts on using music. The second post is
The same could be said for those caught up in the prestige-game that some call academic publishing.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thesis: Submitted

I'm sure my readers will be pleased to hear that I have just handed in my three copies of the MTh thesis for examination and marking. At this stage no examiners have been chosen, so it will be some time I imagine before I receive results. Nonetheless, it is good to be done. Perhaps I'll even write some more thoughtful blog posts...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From an Iraq veteran

Due to my breakdown, my platoon sergeant, my chaplain, and my first sergeant go to bat for me and go talk to the sergeant major to get me to move to chaplain assistant. So I get moved from my mortar platoon to chaplain assistant, which was probably the best move they could ever make. I was able to get the chaplain’s assistant work done pretty much before day ended, and bought a computer, and started writing out my conscientious objection application. My claim was, I’m a Christian. Jesus said love my enemy. How can I not do what he says and still call him Lord?

A full interview can be read at the war project.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Work completed

It's always fulfilling to complete some work. I've recently finished up doing a big of translation which you can read about here on the Great Stemma. A small contribution to a far greater project.

My thesis is done, and should be submitted in the next few days.

At a bit of a loss - working on a few small things, trying to get that PhD thesis proposal together, and interviewing for a few jobs.

Augustine on why not to be boring

Rhetoric, after all, being the art of persuading people to accept something, whether it is true or false, would anyone dare to maintain that truth should stand there without any weapons in the hands of its defenders against falsehood; that those speakers, that is to say, who are trying to convince their hearers of what is untrue, should know how to get them on their side, to gain their attention and have them eating out of their hands by their opening remarks, while these who are defending the truth should not? That those should utter their lies briefly, clearly, plausibly, and these should state their truths in a manner too boring to listen to, too obscure to understand, and finally too repellent to believe? That those should attack the truth with specious arguments, and assert falsehoods, while these should be incapable of either defending the truth or refuting falsehood? that those, to move and force the minds of their hearers into error, should be able by their style to terrify them, move them to tears, make them laugh, give them rousing encouragement, while these on behalf of truth stumble along slow, cold and half asleep?

De Doctrina Christiana IV.2.3. Translation by Edmund Hill.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 2:11-21


11 Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν Κηφᾶς εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην, ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν. 12 πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν• ὅτε δὲ ἦλθον, ὑπέστελλεν καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτὸν φοβούμενος τοὺς ἐκ περιτομῆς. 13 καὶ συνυπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ [καὶ] οἱ λοιποὶ Ἰουδαῖοι, ὥστε καὶ Βαρναβᾶς συναπήχθη αὐτῶν τῇ ὑποκρίσει. 14 ἀλλʼ ὅτε εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσιν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, εἶπον τῷ Κηφᾷ ἔμπροσθεν πάντων• εἰ σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὑπάρχων ἐθνικῶς καὶ οὐχὶ Ἰουδαϊκῶς ζῇς, πῶς τὰ ἔθνη ἀναγκάζεις ἰουδαΐζειν; 15 Ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί• 16 εἰδότες [δὲ] ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ἐὰν μὴ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπιστεύσαμεν, ἵνα δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σάρξ. 17 εἰ δὲ ζητοῦντες δικαιωθῆναι ἐν Χριστῷ εὑρέθημεν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἁμαρτωλοί, ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος; μὴ γένοιτο. 18 εἰ γὰρ ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ, παραβάτην ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω. 19 ἐγὼ γὰρ διὰ νόμου νόμῳ ἀπέθανον, ἵνα θεῷ ζήσω. Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι• 20 ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός• ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. 21 Οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ• εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν.


12 τινας ; τινα – the manuscript support for the former is strong and diverse, and the former reading is more logical in the context.

12 ἦλθον ; ἦλθεν – the manuscript support is slightly more even on this variation, but the former reading is preferable, matching the τινας of the preceding.


11 But when Kephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was condemned. 12 for before the coming certain men from Jacob he ate together with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those of the Circumcision. 13 and the remaining Jews joined him in hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was lead astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not dealing straight in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Kephas before all, “If you, being a Jew, do not live in a Jewish manner, why do you compel the nations to Judaise? 15 We by nature are Jews and not sinners of the Nations; 16 but knowing that a human being is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law all flesh will not be justified. 17 But if we are found to be seeking to be justified in Christ and are ourselves sinners, then is Christ a servant of sin? Not so! 18 For I, through the law, died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been co-crucified with Christ; 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; what I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God that loved me and gave himself on my behalf. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God: for if through the law came righteousness, then Christ died vainly.


In verse 11 we have both the continuations of Paul’s temporally marked biographical defence, but also the introduction of a new sequence. Peter comes to Antioch, and there is a division between Peter and Paul, which Paul goes on to relate. Paul gives the reason for his strong opposition – Peter ‘was condemned’. This may be understood as ‘Peter stood condemned’ by his actions. Paul then explains the basis for Peter’s condemnation in verse 12. His former practice was to share table-fellowship, to eat, with the Gentile believes (with ‘the nations’), an action that Paul understands as being in line with the Gospel message. And, indeed, Peter does too, based upon Acts at least. Yet a new party comes to Antioch, ‘certain men from Jacob (James)’. While Peter and James certainly represent a Christianity more deeply embedded in Jewish cultural practices, it is a mistake to overread this diversity. Debate continues about how we should understand the relationship between these men and James himself. Are they authorised? Do they represent James and James’ position? Acts 15 suggests not. On this basis, I am inclined to see the party as a group associated with James’ more Jewish Christian practice, but more conservative than James himself, and not an authorised delegation by any means. They have some association with James and represent themselves as coming from him.

Paul makes Peter’s very separation a gospel-issue. That is the basis of Paul’s condemnation of Peter. Not that eating with Jews, or eating according to Jewish food laws, is wrong. But that to do so in a context that separates oneself from Gentile believers carries a communication: that they do not have genuine fellowship together.

So much so, that verse 13 introduces the language of hypocrisy. Peter’s actions are out of line with his own beliefs. No doubt that if questioned, Peter’s response would be some kind of accommodation-line. The point here is that in seeking not to offend the Jewish faction, Peter is in fact undermining the gospel message by cutting off the Gentile believers.

So Paul confronts Peter in v14, as he observes that there practice does not align with ‘the truth of the Gospel’. His question highlights Peter’s hypocrisy: since Peter is a Jew, and is free from the Law and so regularly eats and lives like a Gentile, how can he in fact force Gentiles to live in a Jewish manner? This is the outcome of Peter’s withdrawal – it sends the message that Gentile believers will need to ‘Judaise’ in order to have full insider-status in the new Christian movement. Even though Peter himself makes no move to ‘compel’ the Gentiles, his actions are tantamount to the same.

It is unclear when the speech of Paul shifts from historical recollection of conversation with Peter to epistolary discourse with the Galatians, but it is certainly not before v15. The ‘we’ of v15 follows (or establishes, if you prefer), the distinct referents of we vs. you in the letter. We, referring at least to Paul and Peter, but by implication other Jewish-background believers, is used to distinguish Peter and Paul from ‘Gentile sinners’. Paul asserts this as a statement of who they are ‘by nature’. They were born as Jews and so were not unclean Gentiles. And yet, even being such Jews, Paul adds the participial phrase of v16, ‘knowing that a human being is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ’. Paul here states the key theological principle that drives both his rebuke of Peter, and his argument within Galatians. He draws upon Psalm 143:2, with a shift from πᾶς ζῶν to πᾶσα σάρξ, but more importantly adds ἐξ ἔργων νόμου. The future tense δικαιωθήσεται may refer to a decisively eschatological justification, rather than a generic one. This will have important theological implications.

Immediately then we enter into two significant debates. The first is concerning the phrase ἐξ ἔργων νόμου works of the Law. For my part I am unpersuaded by the arguments of the NPP to understand this as something like ‘Jewish boundary markers of ethno-religious identity’. It certainly fails to function that way in Galatians. Neither should it be pushed to a generic ‘legalism.’ Rather, it expresses Torah-obedience within a Mosaic covenant context, which appears to be what the Judaising-teachers in Galatia are pushing for.

The second is debate over the meaning of ‘righteousness’ and ‘justify’ language. Again, I find the NPP unpersuasive. That, a la Wright, justification should be redefined in largely covenant-inclusion terms seems to make a nonsense of justification language at all. I stand with a traditional stream that sees ‘to justify’ to have legal connotations, and to include the idea of declaring and so performatively making right. More on this to come.

v16 then expresses Paul’s conviction, from the scriptures, that a human being is not (and cannot) be right before God through obedience to the Law, but can be so justified, can be so right, through faith in Jesus Christ. (In some instances, I suppose one might take ‘faith of Jesus Christ’ to refer to Jesus’ faithfulness, but I find this position also unconvincing). The fact that Peter and Paul both know this, is why they, as Jews, trusted in Christ – there was no salvation for them through the (works of the) Law. Paul is tripley emphatic here: he first declares what ‘we’ (Jewish believers) know [justification through faith not works of law], then declares that they believed in Christ so that [justification through faith not works of law], because [justification through faith not works of law]. Peter and Paul are in agreement that one has to stop ‘doing’ the Law.

In v17 Paul raises the question: if as believers in Christ and no longer Law-observers, we are ‘sinners’, in that same old covenant sense that Paul raises back in v15, does this in fact make the Messiah a servant or minister of sin? Paul’s emphatic μὴ γένοιτο not only rules this out, but is an expression of its absurdity. v18 gives the reason. ‘sinner’ in the ‘Gentile sinner’ sense is an empty term – it’s been robbed of its meaning by the coming of the new covenantal reality. Rather, to go back to the Law, to the old covenantal reality, would in fact make Paul a transgressor. In reestablishing the Law as a principle for life and obedience before God, the inevitable outcome is sin by the standard of the Law, and so condemnation by the Law. Implicit in Paul’s argument is that Peter’s choice to withdraw from Gentile company and meals, is based on an observance of the Law not only not necessary any more, but in fact a return to it undoes and undermines the Gospel freedom that faith in Christ brings.

The final three verses shift to a very personal note as Paul relates his own salvific existential reality. The Law was the means of Paul’s death insofar as he was condemned by the Law, because the Law is a mechanism of death. The Law produces neither righteousness or life with respect to God. It isn’t designed to do so. And yet, Paul’s death to Law through Law iis the means for life – only through dying to the Law can the Jewish Paul live unto God. Paul immediately links such Law-death to the crucifixion. Paul’s co-crucifixion with Christ is his objective union and participation in Christ precisely and predominately in the Cross event which is the ground of justification. There is no justification without union with Christ. This union and identification is so complete that Paul in verse 20 can state that it is no longer the “I” that lives. There is a kind of ego-death for the Christian, which I believe Paul generalises in 5:17. Who then lives in Paul? None other than the Messiah. And yet Paul does not deny that there is a ‘Paul’ who carries out an existence, ‘life in the flesh’, but that life is entirely by faith, nor is it any generic faith, but a very specific faith in the Son of God (royal-messianic language) who loved Paul even to the point of substitionary death. Paul is caught up in the overwhelming experience of his own reception of grace: the King loved me and died for me: the new life is the life united to the rised Christ. All this to say that Paul’s gospel does not nullify God’s grace, even the gracious gift of the Law. Paul would in fact be nullifying the grace of God if he demanded Torah-observance. And yet, if Torah-observance could in fact bring righteousness, if the Law was a mechanism for righteousness and life, then Christ and his death was pointless, unneccesary. And so Paul prepares to move into the third chapter, wherein he will go head to head with the Judaising teachers about their vain gospel which renders Christ’s death useless.

Some recent blog posts on the debate over 2:16 faith in Christ/Christ's faithfulness. I am in substantial agreement.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tasks for Nov & Dec

Well, my master's thesis is virtually complete. This morning I sent through a final draft to my supervisor, and pending a nod of approval from him, I'll print it up and submit it, probably next week now. I had hoped to submit this very week, but I feel it would be slightly foolish to submit a thesis without my supervisor looking at the final draft first.

The job front is still pending, but things are looking brighter. More on that when things are clearer.

That leaves about 6 weeks before the end of the year. And a few projects to tidy up:

* Gregory reader. I've let it slide the last couple of months, but I'm planning to pick it up again and put in the effort. I could at least have the reader done with vocab, if not grammatical commentary, by the end of the year, and release a Beta version with just the vocab helps.

* Find a PhD topic. I need to reignite that conversation, and do some more research in the field, in order to formulate something both interesting, researchable, and acceptable to the university.

* I'd like to finish up the Galatians series. These are exegetical notes that came out of an MA subject I audited, and it would be good to get through the book.

* Still tidying up a few pieces of Latin translation for a project. And then need to prepare for the Latin Summer School in January as well.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Publish. verb. to make something public.

The irony of publishing today is that publishing does anything but make something public.

With the invention of the printing press, ‘publishing’ became a live possibility. That is, a means for the mass reproduction of written material was available, and in conjunction with the Reformation and related social and religious changes, put to great effect. Writers could, with the proper backing, produce a text and see it promulgated to all and sundry. It was possible for private discourse to become public propaganda (in the most beneficent sense of the word).

As publishing developed it became more and more a means to share – to share ideas and information. How else would you get your ideas into the hands of others interested to read them and hear them, short of going in person to speak?
Eventually you get the advent of periodicals and journals. Regular publications designed to highlight and desseminate worthy writings on a particular topic. Now ‘to publish’ means to have a piece deemed worthy by the editors, or peer-review, of being given a hearing. A form of censorship and vetting enters the process. And not necessarily a bad one. The control of publishing is also a filter for garbage, provided the filter can be trusted.

But we now live in a world where academic publishing does anything but make knowledge public. That is, the cost of subscriptions continues to increase, and journals become harder to access, and copyright is locked up and articles remain hidden behind fireways and pay-walls, and all this made sense in an older world, but this is the world of the internet. This is the age when someone can publish something online, public for anyone who can get hold of a computer with a connection (admittedly a small percent of the population, yet a staggeringly large small-percent).

So now the cost of academics choosing to publish in elitist journals, with commercially-driven pricing agendas, is not to spread their ideas, but to refuse to spread their ideas. ‘Publish or perish’ actually means ‘play the prestige game’ of elitest academic publishing. What good is another academic tome selling for $200? It will only be bought by libraries and borrowed by a handful of people. What good is an article that is published 3 years later than it was relevant, in a journal only those with access to wealthy libraries can read? When this kind of work could be freely and publicly published for all? Sure, we can quibble about the value of peer-review (though even in the hard sciences peer-review is not always all it makes itself out to be – there are personal and political agendas there too) and filtering the garbage, But if a work is good enough to stand on its own, then readers should be critical enough to come to their own determinations and conclusions. It is the task of the student and reader to assess their sources thoroughly.

Knowledge wants to be free. Ideas live by copying. No-one loses from free information, except the gatekeepers of dead media.

Two thoughts on 'the social network'

The wife and I watched 'the social network' on Saturday. It's a passable movie. It's worth keeping in mind that it's not only fictional, but the work of a team that doesn't want to let truth get in the way of story. That said there are two lines in the movie worth reflecting on.

1. "A guy who makes a new chair doesn't owe money to everyone who ever built a chair."

This is the essence of the case against intellectual property. What is it to own an idea? You can't control it, you can't exclude people from using it, there's no physical means of doing so. It's not a 'thing'. And IP by nature must be copied to be shared. But copies don't dilute in value. If I take your idea of a chair, I haven't taken anything from you. You aren't short the idea of the chair. Want to be the only guy in town making chairs? Sure, but let's not call it property.

Much as movie-Zuckerburg is unlikeable, he's at least right on this, even if the scriptwriters missed the biggest point of their film.

2. There's a line in the film, I haven't found it online, but it's the moment when Zuckerburg talks about "taking the whole college experience and putting it online", and I think it's linked to the relationship-status epiphany.

Here's the biggest secret about facebook - the biggest game on facebook is not farmville, it's facebook. facebook is the game. or, college is the game. or, high school is the game. or, social networking *is* the game. Do you see that? That high-school in micro, and then college for a bunch of people, is actually about a social game in which the nebulous contest is for popularity, but not necessarily in a crass 'I have the most friends' kind of way, but in a thousand subtle interactions, attempts to gain status, steal status, improve status, and network ourselves into being liked. The initial shifts to make facebook first available to school students, and then to the world, essentially began to replicate the social games we play in those institutional environments, and make them shape our whole life. it's not that we wouldn't play if we weren't on facebook - we were already playing. facebook just took that, put it online, quanitified a few aspects, added some nifty coding and algorithms to play by, and we're a generation hooked on playing. life is a game, and facebook is its virtual mirror.

The inside is the outside is the inside.

I imagine, and not entirely without reason, that there was a time when nothing was ‘private’, except maybe the goings on inside your head. Life was lived mostly in the open, communities were small, kinship-related, and so people knew everybody in their vicinity, and so everyone knew, to some extent, what everyone was like, and what everyone was up to.

But then our civilisations grew up. Villages turned into towns turned into cities. People stopped living in family compounds, and began to live in family units, and very recently, alone. What went on inside a property wasn’t known to those on the outside. And not only did we create the ‘private’, but we enshrined it as a right – the right not to have others know.

And yet now, in the most isolated time in history, technology is turning it all on its head again. The nature of the internet, and the spawning of social networking, is restructuring our society. People are giving up their privacy for connection. Once you share on the internet, you have shared with everybody. It’s there, always, for everyone to see, despite what ‘privacy’ settings you have. And as other technology invades our society – device tracking, proliferation of cctv, integration of databases, consumer profiling – the internet becomes the gateway to a kind of public life many of aren’t even aware we’re having.

Whether this is good or bad remains to be seen. What it does mean is that we will need to make a psychological shift: the private is public again. In fact, we are better off assuming that all our life is public. Despite society’s late 20th century rejection of public or social morality, I suspect the internet will mean the end of private morality in one sense, and the rebirth of a public morality, though of a very different kind in this post-Christendom context. The censure and judgment of online life will become, in its own way, the social ostracism and exclusion of many far earlier close-knit public communities.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 2:1-10

The Text:

1 Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ συμπαραλαβὼν καὶ Τίτον• 2 ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν• καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον. 3 ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Τίτος ὁ σὺν ἐμοί, Ἕλλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι• 4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶν ἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν, 5 οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 6 Ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, - ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει• πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει - ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο, 7 ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἰδόντες ὅτι πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς, 8 ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργήσας Πέτρῳ εἰς ἀποστολὴν τῆς περιτομῆς ἐνήργησεν καὶ ἐμοὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, 9 καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας, ἵνα ἡμεῖς εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, αὐτοὶ δὲ εἰς τὴν περιτομήν• 10 μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.

πάλιν ἀνέβην in v1 has both early and diverse attestation. The reverse order is supported by mainly Western texts. In any case the significance would be virtually zero.

In v5 several texts omit οἷς, which grammatically smoothes the text; omission of οὐδέ on the other hand, might harmonise Paul’s yielding with Act 16:3 (so Metzger conjectures), but would run directly contrary to Paul’s Galatian argument.

v9 the reading of the names is altered in some texts, with the more familiar Πέτρος substituted for Κηφᾶς, and brought to the front for prominence.


1 Then after 14 years I again went up to Jerusalem, taking with me Barnabas and Titus; 2 I went up in accordance with a revelation; and I presented to them the gospel which I preach among the nations, privately to those that seemed good, lest somehow I am running or have run in vain. 3 but not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised; 4 now on account of the snuck-in pseudo-brothers, who snuck in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us, 5 to whom not even for an hour did we yield to subjugation, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 But from those that seemed to be something – whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me (God does not judge men at face-value) – for those who seemed to be regarded added nothing to me, 7 but rather seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision just as Peter of the uncircumcision, 8 for the One operating through Peter for the apostolate of the uncircumcised worked also through me to the nations; 9 and knowing the grace that was given to me, Jacob and Kephas and John, those seeming to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we unto the nations, and they unto the circumcision; 10 only that we should remember the poor , which this very thing I was eager to do.


The temporal sequencing of Paul’s autobiographical material continues with the initial Ἔπειτα. The 14 year gap between Paul’s first initial visit, and this second visit again confirms Paul’s autonomous gospel ministry. Commentators divide over whether this visit accords with Acts 15, Acts 11, or another occasion altogether. Given that the council in Acts 15 provides a clear statement of Gentile law-observance, it seems odd that Paul would not cite nor bring that letter to bear on the Galatian scenario if this visit coincided with the Acts 15 narrative. For this reason I am inclined to see this visit as either corresponding to the Acts 11 visit, or another unspecified visit to Jerusalem.

Paul cites three different reasons for his visit to Jerusalem on this occasion. Firstly, it is in accordance with a revelation. Paul does not identify whether this revelation in particular was given to him directly. In any case, it grounds Paul’s movements in God’s activity and purpose. Secondly, he presents to ‘them’ his gospel, in conjunction with the third reason, to ensure his gospel work wasn’t in vain.
Understandably, it can seem that Paul’s presentation of his gospel to the Jerusalem leaders is to gain their approval, but broader considerations render this unlikely. Paul has been arguing for the God-revealed autonomous nature of his gospel. He doesn’t personally need the Jerusalem leaders’ approval or blessing. No, rather Paul’s presentation of his gospel is to confirm the unity of his gospel with the Jerusalem leaders, the Jewish-apostolate, and so to reject claims that Paul’s gospel work was half-done, which left open a path for his Judaising opponents to sneak in and ‘complete’ Paul’s gospel work.

At this point attention to pronouns becomes more necessary. I think a good case can be maintained that the language of ‘we’ throughout most of Galatians refers to Jewish-background believers in Christ, while ‘you’ has in view Gentile-background believers, i.e. the Galatians. So Paul notes that Titus, though a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. The Jerusalem church did not require entrance and observance of Torah from a Gentile-believer.

The grammar of 4-6 is somewhat discontinuous. All of verse 4 prepares for verse 5, so that Paul’s refusal to yield is the main concept. The false-brothers of verse 4 are the Jerusalem counterparts to the opponents in Galatia – Judaising believers who seek Torah-observance. The ‘our liberty’ in v4 refers to the very liberty that even Jewish-background believers in Christ have, a freedom from the Law which Paul will elaborate latter in the epistle. Yet Paul’s defence of his liberty has the Gentiles in view – v5. Gentile freedom from Law-observance depends upon Jewish freedom from the same.

In verse 6 Paul notes that the Jerusalem leaders added nothing additional to his gospel. This matches his purpose in coming to Jerusalem – to attest to the agreement in gospel proclamation between his gospel and their gospel, so that the unity of the gospel might be established, not so that Paul’s gospel might be approved. Thus Paul defends both the autonomy of his gospel and its congruity with the other apostles’ message.

Paul’s repeated disavowal of respect for status in these verses also deserves some comment. The δοκεῖν language should not be treated as suggesting insincerity, as if Paul were saying ‘those who seemed to be something (but aren’t)’. This is an English connotation to the language of ‘seeming’ that does not apply in the Greek. Paul’s point is probably rather that, being unacquainted with the Jerusalem church, these were those who did indeed appear to him to be important and proven leaders. Yet he also makes the point that ‘whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me’. The presence of the word ποτε suggests that Paul’s disconcern for their status has more to do with their former way of life, indeed all our former ways of life, than present reality. His aside that πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει draws from Dt 10:17, with some minor alterations. The concept is prominent elsewhere in James, in referring to God’s impartiality.

Verses 7-8 then concentrate on the difference between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders. The expressions τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας and τῆς περιτομῆς should be understood as the receivers of that gospel proclamation, so that Paul’s apostolate extends to the Gentiles, whereas Peter’s focuses on the Jews. This division of mission fields is confirmed in v9, with the right hand of fellowship, given to Paul and Barnabas, for their Gentile-mission work. The final comment of v10 may sound like an addition to Paul’s teachings, but Paul emphasises that it is already his own concern. There is some debate about who ‘the poor’ are, whether the marginalised in Jewish society, or the economic sufferers in the Jerusalem church, or the poor in general as an expression of Christian faith. In light of the ethical dimensions of later Galatians, I would suggest that it is the economically poor within the Christian community, and in light of the historical factors particularly those suffering in connection with the Jerusalem church.

Still at the drawing board

With the PhD application. My 1 Peter proposal was considered a bit too broad-ranging and theological.

I'm not really sure what else to go with at the moment. I'd really like a fairly defined body of texts, sermons preferably, by a single author, which have theological significance, that can be studied in a history-oriented department.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:10-24

The Text:

10 Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην. 11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον• 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν, 14 καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. 15 Ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ 16 ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα εὐαγγελίζωμαι αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, εὐθέως οὐ προσανεθέμην σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι 17 οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους, ἀλλὰ ἀπῆλθον εἰς Ἀραβίαν καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν. 18 Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε, 19 ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. 20 ἃ δὲ γράφω ὑμῖν, ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι. 21 Ἔπειτα ἦλθον εἰς τὰ κλίματα τῆς Συρίας καὶ τῆς Κιλικίας• 22 ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Ἰουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Χριστῷ. 23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει, 24 καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν θεόν.

v11 γάρ vs. δέ. Almost balanced textual support. One suspects the meaning is not overly affected by the variation.

v15 ὁ Θεός has numerous textual witnesses, but importance texts omit it. It probably should be omitted, since its insertion is explicable by a desire to bring out the implied subject of εὐδόκησεν. Its omission, conversely, would be difficult to explain.

v18 Κηφᾶν is supported by strong textual witnesses, while Πέτρον is almost certainly a later substitution of the more familiar Greek name for the apostle. Such a variation occurs several later times in the epistle, which I will simply note without comment.


10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I still were pleasing men, I would not be a slave of Christ. 11 For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel proclaimed by me, that it is not merely human in nature; 12 For neither did I receive it from men nor was taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard my way of live formerly in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God in an extreme manner and attempted to destroy it, 14 and was advancing in Judaism beyond many of the cohort of my generation, being an extreme zealot for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when [God], having set me apart from my mothers womb and calling me through his grace, 16 revealed his son in me, so that I might preach him among the nations [Gentiles], I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those apostles that precede me, but I departed into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to pay an inquiring visit to Kephas and I stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but another of the apostles I did not see except Jacob the brother of the Lord. 20 which things I write to you, see! before God, I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 I was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing that the one formerly persecuting them not preached the Faith which formerly he sought to destroy, 24 and they glorified God because of me.


Although some read πείθω and ἀρέσκειν as having virtually the same force, I think it better to give each an independent force. So Paul raises the question about (a) persuading, and (b) pleasing, and implies a dichotomy between the two. Is the object of his persuasive efforts God or men? The second clause of 10, ‘or do I seek to please men?’ along with the answer in 10c, resolves the rhetorical questions. Paul isn’t making a rhetorical defence before God, since he has no need to persuade God nor purpose in doing so, but rather seeks to please God. On the other hand, his persuasive attempts are directed towards human beings, which is why he doesn’t seek to please human beings. In 10c Paul suggests that service (slavery) to Christ, necessarily rules out pleasing men. This verse sets up the tone of the rest of the passage, which will launch into Paul’s defence of his gospel and apostleship.

v11 then functions as a topic sentence, about the nature and origin of Paul’s gospel. It is not κατὰ ἄνθρωπον, ‘according to men’, which should probably be understood as ‘being human in nature and characteristics’. The reason for its non-human character is, v12, its non human origins – neither received (the passing on of tradition) from a human being, nor taught it, but by a direct, supernatural revelation whose agent and source if Jesus Christ.

Paul’s backing (γὰρ) for the radical nature of this revelation is point to his former way of life ‘in Judaism’. However we want to read the parting of the ways, Paul is prepared to see his former life as part of a distinct religious identity of ‘Judaism’. There is real irony that to ‘advance in Judaism’ was to ‘persecute τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, a phrase which has the Jewish identity of ‘Israel’, but which Paul now situates as ‘God’s assembly’. To advance in Judaism was to persecute the Israel of God (cf. 6:16). Though I would be reluctant to assert any literary or direct connection, the zeal for τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων matches well with Jesus’ own engagement with the Pharisaical schools, as in Mark 7:1-23.

The construction of v15 is odd, partly because the flow of thought introduced by ‘but when God was pleased...’ is interrupted by an extended description of God in terms of Paul’s setting-apart from the womb and calling. The phrase is drawn from Isaiah 49:1, with further correspondence to Jeremiah 1:5, and situates Paul’s calling in terms of the Old Testament prophets. What other category for calling would Paul have drawn upon? For this reason, I cannot sanction interpretations that want to deny a conversion experience to Paul in place of a ‘calling’ experience. Paul’s radical then/now Judaism/Christ constructions rules out a purely intra-Judaism development.

The nature of Paul’s calling is specified in v16, to preach the gospel to the nations. Nations here should be understood in its typical sense, ‘Gentiles’, hence my inclusion in brackets. Thus, Paul’s calling and conversion to some extent coincide. Whether v16 ἐν ἐμοί is to be taken as ‘in me’, as the location of the revelation, or else instrumentally ‘by me’, to Paul’s ongoing revelation of the Christ through his preaching, is open to debate. Though Paul’s ongoing preaching is logically dependent upon the revelation of the Christ to him.

Paul now emphasises the autonomy of his initial period. He did not ‘consult with flesh and blood’ – reinforcing his earlier comment in v12, about the non-human origin and teaching of his gospel. v17 likewise disassociates his gospel activity from the Jerusalem-apostles Rather, Paul went to Arabia (i.e. the Nabataean kingdom), and specifically Damascus.

The three year gap before Paul visits Jerusalem gives his gospel and apostleship a ‘distance’ from the Jerusalem apostles which serves as Paul’s defence of its independence. He does not deny dealing with the Jerusalem apostles, but is keen to delineate his autobiography in terms that demonstrate that independence. So, v18, he mentions his visit to Kephas (Peter), which lasted 15 days, and involved no other major Jerusalem identities beyond Jacob (James), the brother of Jesus. v20 is a meta-comment upon the narrative itself – Paul draws attention to his self-disclosure and attests to his truthfulness. v21-24 summarise events beyond that initial visit – his return into Syria and Cilicia, the fact that he was not acquainted in person with Judean churches, and they praised God.

We might also note that Paul’s visit to Jerusalem here is informal. There is not delegation, no officiality, just Paul coming to Jerusalem and meeting two Christian leaders. He is again emphasising that he didn’t ‘get’ his gospel on this occasion. Indeed, cross-checking with Acts reveals his prior gospel ministry. Secondly, ‘the Faith’ in v23 is a remarkably Christian expression, since Christianity as a religion is built upon ‘Faith’. To speak of other religious traditions as ‘faiths’ is to import a key Christian distinctive into them, that is not necessarily present. So Paul can speak of preaching the Faith in a unique sense of the word. This section, 1:11-24, repeatedly hammers the defence of the source of Paul’s gospel and Paul’s apostleship.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Latin translation help

I'm working on a project for someone, and having a few problems with the following passages. Would appreciate if anybody could chime in with some suggestions. There may well be spelling errors/variations, etc., to be figured out. I'll list the latin text, followed by my rambling notes/paraphrase.

1. et occisit Cain tritabum suum et per hoc plantarium sanguinis e digamie dilubii protinus pena subvertit

1. and he slew Cain his own tritabum and through this of his family’s cutting he overturned the penaly of the flood...

2. propter quod zelo ductus interfecit eum. Primus ante diluvium Cain civitatem Enoch ex nomine filii sui in India condidit. Quam urbem ex sola sua postitate inplevit quidis vult quod impiorum pergenies civitatem in ipsa mundi origine construxit. in quod novemus in pios in hac vita ete fundatos, scenos us hospites ete et preginos unem et Abel tamquam preginius intram populis inranius non condidit civitatem superna en enim secorum civitas

2. On account of which, led by jealousy, he killed him. Cain founded the first city, Enoch from the name of his son, in India, before the Flood. Which city he filled by his own [power?] with whomever he wished, since in the very beginning of the world he built this city through the talents of the wicked....

3. a quorum iteritu omnis mundus letabitirunt et invicem re munera mittent

3. from whom the whole world will kill [iteritu] and in turn send rewards

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A possible PhD topic

I may have come up with something. I'm proposing to do a study of the interpretation and reception of 1 Peter in patristic literature. Just looking at the ACCS, there are 7 possible commentaries, though how extensive and how much they show dependencies I'm yet to investigate. They include: Didymus the Blind, Theophylact, Bede, Hilary of Arles, Oecumenius, Cassiodorus, and someone else whose name currently escaped me. That, plus a thorough working over of Biblia Patristica could generate some interesting material. Most of these smaller commentaries have no English translation, which would be an advantage.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:6-9

The Text:

6 Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον, 7 ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο, εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρʼ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. 9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω• εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρʼ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

There is considerable doubt about the textual readings of Χριστοῦ in v6 and ὑμῖν in v8. Χριστοῦ is omitted by significant Western texts, but not all. Its presence serves only to definitely identify the grace in view. The presence of ὑμῖν in v8 restricts the anathama to a particularly Galatian scenario, rather than a more widespread principle, though such a principle would not be inappropriate. Nevertheless, I retain the reading.


6 I am amazed that are deserting so quickly from the one that called you by the grace [of Christ], to another gospel 7 which is not another [gospel], except there are some troubling you and wishing to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven preach the gospel [to you] different from what we preached to you, let him be anathema. 9 As we said before and now I say again: if someone preaches to you different than what you received, let him be anathema.


Unlike most of his letters, and letters in general, Galatians omits any thanksgiving and moves directly into astonishment. The cause of his astonishment is not the celerity of their abandoment, so much as the desertion itself, couple with its speed. Theodoret and Chrysostom both highlight that the desertion is spoken of as not ‘from the gospel’ but from God himself, to heighten the immensity of their abandoment. The mention of ‘calling’ here again previews significant latter themes in the letter. The play in vv6-7 about the gospel hinges on the fact that, in Paul’s view, another gospel is, by definition, not a gospel at all. Thus he is forced into speaking of it in one instance as ‘a different gospel’, but then denying its very gospel-like nature, since the message they are turning to is not gospel.

v7 also introduces us more directly to the Galatian Opponents. They are described here as ‘those troubling’ the Galatians, and ‘wishing to pervert the gospel of Christ.’ Paul has no hesitation about casting them in the most negative light possible, since at stake is the very gospel message of Paul, and thus the eternity of the Galatian believers. This leads into the twice-over warning and anathema. ‘We’ in v8 should probably be understood as Paul and his entourage, though the primary originator of such preaching is Paul himself. It is worth noting the complement between ‘different from what we preached’ and ‘different from what you received’. The language of ἀνάθεμα picks up the OT cultic language of given over to destruction, and so indicates falling under the wrath of God in judgment.

It is unclear from the text itself whether ‘as we said before’ should be taken to refer to Pauline teaching in Galatia, which he is seeking to remind them of, or as a communicative device referring simply back to v8, and so simply drawing attention to the gravity of Paul’s warning message.

Paul's opening gambit highlights the main concern, especially of chapters 1-2, that of defending his gospel against the Opponents, who he perceives to be peddling an alternate, and thus deficient and deceptive, 'gospel'. Paul's defence will come in two parts, as he shows both the independent origin and the lack of difference from the Jerusalem apostles, of his gospel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:1-5

The text:

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ διʼ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν, 2 καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 4 τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, 5 ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

A number of variations in the text of v3 appear. The strongest of these is πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν which is preferable on external evidence, with a strong and broad cross-section of attestation. Paul's usage elsewhere (Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:3, 2 Cor 1:2, etc.) supports the reading as stands, and a desire to align ἡμῶν with κυρίου would make sense of a scribal change. The effect of the primary alternate reading is theologically negligible, in my opinion.


Paul, an apostle not from men nor through human agency but through Jesus Christ and God [the] Father that raised him from the dead, 2 and all the brothers with me – to the churches of Galatia,
3 Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 he that gives himself for our sins, so that he might rescue us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory eternally, Amen.


The standard epistolary introduction receives a number of distinctive features in 1:1-5. Firstly, the author Paul immediately identifies himself as an apostle, and this previews one of the dominant concerns of the epistle in chapters 1-2, a defence of Paul’s gospel intertwined with his apostleship. The qualifications he gives direct our attention first negatively, to the source (not from men), and the agency (nor by men) of his apostleship, then positively to the agency of Jesus Christ, and the source. A strict distinction between source and agency is probably overblown here, so that Paul’s double statement has a certain highlighting of its non-human origins. The qualification of God the Father as ‘the one that raised him from the dead’ is the only reference to resurrection in Galatians, and yet its prominent position in identifying the very God who is the source of Paul’s apostleship reinforces its prominence in his gospel, despite its absence from the bulk of the epistle.

The reference to the brothers with him reminds us that Paul’s epistolary and pastoral work was not done in isolation, but in community.

The addressees, the churches of Galatia, are a source of scholarly contention. For myself, I favour a Southern Galatian hypothesis. The reference to multiple churches suggests multiple gatherings of Christians, and reinforces the notion from elsewhere the ἐκκλεσία properly refers in early christian literature to a local community.

The twin greeting of grace and peace combines the distinctive Jewish salutation, shalom, with the uniquely Christian emphasis on grace, forming a typical Pauline address. Some suggest the grammar of this verse is open to being read as ‘God – our Father and the Lord Jesus’, as a statement of Jesus’ divinity. While this is possible, I am unconvinced the Greek reads so straightforwardly. It can well be agreed, though, that Jesus’ divinity is attested on other NT grounds, and conceded that Jewish 1st century authors would not invite such ambiguity frivolously. That the Christ is identified further in v4 matches the further description of the Father in v1, giving us a rounded presentation of both death and resurrection, with the clear gospel statement of ‘the one giving himself for our sins.’ This is the core of Paul’s gospel message, which is part and parcel of the content of the Galatian epistle.

The purpose clause introduced gives an eschatological note to Paul’s gospel and epistle, ‘this present evil age’ picking up apocalyptic language. However, a full-blown apocalypticism of genre or outlook is impossible to sustain from the rest of the epistle. Thus, it is better characterised as part of Paul’s eschatology. The present age is passing, done with, and the new age has come, into which we are rescued by Christ’s salvific death. The importance of time is also previewed here.

The death and rescue are both 'according to the will of our God and Father', and so reveal and accomplish the divine purpose, which cannot be thwarted. This final statement leads Paul naturally into praise, as he offers up a doxological conclusion to his introductory statements.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the reading of texts, a personal note

This past week I've had the pleasure of spending three days in the second block of an intensive MA subject on Galatians. A pleasure for two reasons. 1) As an MTh student, I have been able to audit subjects like these for free, reaping much of the benefit without either financial cost or submissable assessments. 2) There is just something very refreshing about the study of the text. I like nothing better than to sit down with a portion of text, particularly the sacred scriptures that is, but other texts occasion a similiar delight, and read it with close attention to detail. The bulk of my MTh is simply a reading of Chrysostom with attention to certain details. My preaching style is built upon simply reading the text in front of us. The text is indeed the thing.

If I can hold my own attention for long enough, I will post up a series of exegetical notations on Galatians.

doctoral application

I'm meant to put in a PhD application this week. That involves me doing enough preliminary research to formulate at least a provisional topic. I'm thinking of taking a portion of Gregory of Nazianzus' sermons, preferebly untranslated, and seeing what I can do with them. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Job Search

It isn't going very well. I'm half-qualified to be a Latin teacher, by which I mean that I have excellent Latin, but I don't have a teaching background or degree. So, I've applied for at least half a dozen Latin teaching positions, the magnitude of which surprised me, but have yet to get an interview for any of them.

My most eminent qualifications are for ministry positions, but here I am confronted with the fact that despite this being the course of employment most suitable, a plan to move overseas in the next 6-12 months renders me highly undesirable as a prospective employee. Nobody really wants a full time minister for such a short time. This coupled with a lack of networks bodes poorly.

Of course, I am a pessimist in this area. That should at least be acknowledged.

My only other experience and qualifications are in fitness (another area where I am but half-qualified), and working in a fish & chip shop (it was a good year, but I can hardly make a living out of it). Now contemplating a range of employment possibilities which bear little to no relation to my background, experience, and qualifications.

Perhaps you can empathise with my pessimism.

Augustine on culture and sin

The human race, however, is inclined to judge sins, not according to the gravity of the evil desire involved, but rather with reference to the importance attached to their own customs. So people frequently reckon that only those acts are to be blamed which in their own part of the world and their own time have been customarily treated as vicious and condemned, and only those acts to be approved of and praised which are acceptable to those among whom they live.

De Doctrine Christiana, III.10.15

Was reading this passage this evening and struck by how true it is. Apologies for the lack of interesting blog posts, hope to get some in next week.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The interplay of the corporate and individual and the doctrine of two kingdoms (Part 2)

I’m going to take for granted a step that some of you are not inclined to grant, in order to advance this second part. That step is a number of convictions:

a) Individual Christians are called to enemy-love, not self-defence or personal vindication. (I think a good case for this can be made from the classic texts of Matthew 5:38-48 and from Romans 12:14-21, among other places and a broader Christological ethic)

b) The church as a corporate body is also called to enemy-love, not self-defence or personal vindication.

c) The ruling authorities in the world have judicial power for the execution of judgment (Romans 13)

Now, let me come to the point of my philosophical confusion. If Christians are called to a life of enemy-love, both individually and corporately, which eschews violence, how can this be overturned when Christians are considered corporately under a different aegis? That is, if you think about a collection of Christians as a church, one would deny that they had any authority for violence and judicial-force, but if you reconstituted the same collection of Christians as a civil authority, then they should pursue such violence? Of course, the objection could simply be made that in different places and roles I have different values and functions and authorities to carry out. Let me suggest though, that this contrast between ethics of Christian life and secular authority is more than simply what my governmental office might permit me to do, it goes close to the core of Christian ethics.

This is where it is helpful to consider the articulation of the Reformer’s doctrine of the two kingdoms of God. I agree, that God does indeed rule the world by means of two reigns, two kingdoms, the one of secular government, the other the spiritual kingdom nascent in the church. Such two kingdoms are united and overlaid in the nation of Israel, which is why you see the twin exercise of coercive and spiritual authority in the same body. The two kingdoms are distinctly separated in the NT, as I believe can be seen both by (a) Jesus’ relation to secular authorities (Mt 22:21 for instance), (b) the spiritualisation of church discipline and judicial function (excommunication as the sign of spiritual exclusion and thus death, not matched to any temporal death).

The key question is what sort of role may Christians legitimately pursue in the realm of secular authority, that will not compromise their allegiance to Jesus? The NT addresses a situation of political disempowerment, where rulers were far from paradigms of justice, and Christian involvement was negligible to non-existent. Nonetheless, I think it’s a far characterisation of the NT that the real work of God and focus of Christian effort is to be the spread of the Kingdom by lives of witness and work in the world. i.e., the primary focus of Christian lives is seen in the spiritual means of the Heavenly Kingdom, not the coercive means of the ruling powers. Indeed, the realpolitik of fallen and unredeemed rulers and tyrants reminds us that God rules providentially through whatever ruling authorities there happen to be, irrespective of their devotion to him. That, too, is the treatment of the OT, where the judgment of Israel by foreign nations is likewise portrayed as God’s providential ruling of the kings, without exoneration of their sins.

If we’re looking for a terminus ad quem for Christian involvement in secular government, I propose minimally that it must be the avoidance of any kind of dual-minded mentality. Contra Luther, it’s not okay for the Christian to be not-retaliatory in his personal life, but put on the cap and baton and mete out judicial violence in the community. Such a bifurcation of moral realities is unsustainable psychologically and morally for the individual, and disingenuous about the integrated reality of human moral communities. We may live in a world where God reigns by two modes, but Christians should be wary of thinking that the latter can be redemptive.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The interplay of the corporate and individual and the doctrine of two kingdoms (Part 1)

The two most common arguments I hear against the kind of pacifism I articulate follow along these lines:

(1) Surely it is wrong to stand by and let someone vulnerable suffer harm, when you have the power to step in and stop it

(2) The restraint of evil is a necessary part of Godly order in a fallen world, and so Christians must employ violence to do so, but it is not the Church’s role.

In this post I want to explore some of the logic that undergirds or plays into these positions. Firstly, I want to consider how the former argument is often based on a kind of utilitarianism that ends up in logical convolutions of increasing counter-intuitive absurdity.

(1) is based on the premise that ends can shape, and fundamentally alter, the moral dimension of means. What is the end or consequence that is in view in (1)? Let’s suppose that it is some violent crime, murder or rape or the like. These things are truly horrendous, and are to be stopped. Let’s further suppose that the prospective victim is someone dear to me, a family member. Suddenly our hypothetical is taking the shape of, “What sort of moral monster would you have to be to stand by and watch a family member get murdered?”

I have already critiqued in other places the kind of deterministic logic that says only violence can solve this situation, and your only options in this situation are (a) violence, (b) acquiescence. Instead, this time I wish to point out how this hypothetical makes two other problematic moves. Firstly, it atomises the corporate.

Is it right for the church to willingly accept martyrdom? I would think the scriptures and the history of the church teach us yes. And yet, the kind of example above breaks down that solidarity, and says that if its in the power of individuals to prevent, by means of violence, other individuals from dying, then they should do so. The church as a collective, then, would never be a church that accepts martyrdom, but one in which individuals never practice self-defence, but instead always practice other-defence. There is a mis-translation of individual and corporate sensibility here that I want to engage further below.

Secondly, it absolutises this life. If the greatest evil we could suffer would be the deprivation of mortal life, then death would be the great evil to be avoided. But this is untrue in several dimensions. The greatest good is to know God and his gospel. Indeed, Jesus goes so far as to say that to know God and his Son is eternal life (Jn 17:2). So when I make the lives of those nearest to me the highest value in a life-threatening situation, I over-value temporal existence, and under-value eternal existence. Because the eternal life of those dear to me in Christ is secure. The eternal destiny of those that threaten them, almost certainly not. Should I choose to save that which cannot be prevented (i.e., the mortal death of Christian loved ones is certain), at the price of the enemy’s life, thereby ending all hope for their redemption? By this utilitarian logic, Christians should prefer to kill each other to prevent the deaths of non-Christians, in the hopes of their repentance to eternal life. This logic won’t do at all. Indeed, it makes Jesus a moral monster, since he indeed has the power to prevent the deaths of his brothers and sisters, those who he loved to die for, and he prefers their death to their life. Why does Jesus stand idly by?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Training Diary

I meant to write 3 intelligent blogposts this weekend. Review some books, drop some exegesis skills, that kind of thing. Instead I spent the long weekend digitising music, visiting friends, catching a film at the cinema, and so on. So instead, I'm going to talk about exercise.

I tend to be a little addictive in personality, and this extends to exercise. Coming out of high school, I did martial arts, and trained 2-4 times a week. After university, I did a 6 month stint in a tech college learning Fitness Instruction, at which time I also joined the Tech gym, and went to about 14 training sessions a week. That was a fairly high level of training! I was swimming, running, doing weights, and martial arts.

Turns out I really like lifting weights. It's a solitary kind of pursuit, which suits my personality well. This last year I have been back in the gym. I'd taken a couple of years off any organised or formal exercise, and suffered for it. So now I am in the gym usually 5 days a week. I'm not naturally a big person, I really struggle to gain weight. Currently I'm the heaviest I've ever been, and the strongest.

One of the problems with enjoying weight lifting, is that I just like to pile on more activities to my program, so I think I've ended up overtraining lately. I had a shoulder injury many years ago (torn rotator cuff from a skateboarding incident), and so my left shoulder is usually the first to feel things. The second problem I have is the bad habit of just wanting to keep training.

But this week I'm going to be good - no lifting at all. Just a bit of cardio work. I used to run a lot, but not so much anymore, but I'm working on that too. I also really enjoy indoor rowing. What I love about these, and lifting weights, is that it is all so measurable. Metrics means you can record, and thus improve, your efforts.

Anyway, this week, just some running and rowing, and then I'm going to cull my bloated weights program back to some core exercises.

An hour in the gym is also a good length of time to listen to a lecture or sermon on the ipod.

Hope you've enjoyed this off topic post/ramble.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Random updates on various aspects of Life

1) The Thesis

My supervisor sent me back my draft today and we met. He is overall very pleased with it. A few structural elements to include. So my main aim for October is to tidy up the thesis, track down a few more articles that aren't on hand here, and try and submit by Oct 30. That would be excellent.

2) Other studious enterprises

I've been auditing an MA subject on Galatians that is quite fun. We have a second intensive block in October, and I'm getting together a presentation on OT usage/salvation-history/typology. I did a youth camp last weekend with three talks from Galatians 2, 3, and 5, which went quite well and helped a lot.

I'm also helping a guy with some Latin translations from a late antique/early medieval text, which is quite enjoyable.

3) Other things

I've upped my gym training since I've had more time on my hands, which has been really good. On the other hand, haven't really been plugging away at the languages as much as I should be. Once I break routine, it's quite hard to get back into it.

Medical examination for overseas went well. Took longer than expected due to some conflicting but ultimately meaningless results, but now it's done and our mission application can proceed.

I've been reading some good books. Keller's 'Ministries of Mercy', Kostenberger's book on Heresy and Orthodoxy, and just picked up 'Halos and Avatars', a theological compilation on video games.

No success on the job front though.

Friday, September 17, 2010

facebook, privacy, and social exchange

The more I live in my personal post-FB world, the more phenomenal the phenomenon
becomes. And the more reflections I have.

Facebook's fundamental premise is not, "If you didn't want people to know, you
shouldn't have shared it," but, "if you didn't want people to know, you
shouldn't have done it." That is, for FB, privacy is not really an option that
it believes you want, even if you say you do want privacy. In this world, FB is
a silent eavesdropper to all your relationships, ever present, and assuming that
even if you don't want other people to know, you want FB to know. FB's mantra is
eerily like the moral agenda of More's Utopia, "If you've got nothing to hide,
why do you need privacy?" But privacy is not about hiding things, but about
sharing them. There's nothing wrong with a nude body, but privacy is not needing
to share it with everybody! FB is the 5yo child standing at your bedroom door at
inopportune moments, and blurting inopportune comments out at dinner parties
with your to-be-impressed friends. When all of life becomes public performance,
what will we have left to share?

Facebook is also the mediator of our social exchanges. So that in my post-FB
existence, I sometimes experience 'social networking discrimination', the kind
of exclusion that comes from the assumption that 'everybody is on facebook', so
to share with facebook is to have shared with your friends. "Didn't you read it
on facebook? I posted it this morning" is the FB-user's assumption, and so the
need to have unmediated social exchange has been obviated. No need to 'catch-up'
at all. Worse still is the presumption, "If I just put something up on facebook,
everybody will read it." We have outsourced our communication.

None of which is meant to be an ideological critique of what facebook is.
Facebook's success is in doing social networking with a high degree of
functionality. But in the age of online social networking, we more than ever
need reflection on what it is doing to our society.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thesis: approaching completion

You'll be pleased to hear (I hope!) that my MTh thesis is nearing completion. I am a few thousand words shy of the target, and have a conclusion to write, but it's mostly done. A few other things need tidying up - incorporating a little more secondary literature, refining and nuancing the premises of my argument, the strength of evidence, and the weight of conclusions.

I'll present a paper on Partitive Exegesis in Chrysostom at a student seminar in a few weeks, and probably post that online shortly after. As for the whole thesis, I expect I'll make it freely available once it's been marked, so sometime in the new year.

Will shortly be looking in more earnest for a job for next year; will also spend Nov-Dec trying to finish the Gregory Nazianzus reader/commentary.

Towards a theology of violence, V (Exodus)

Exodus is, on my understanding and reading of the Canon, the central OT book. Its dual focus is the Exodus event, which is the great deliverance of a people unto God, through the atoning sacrifice of the Passover, and the Covenant-giving, which constitutes that saved people into a holy assembly unto the nations.

The opening of the book reconfigures the historical scene – the passing of time, the new generation, and the forgetfulness of Pharaoh, who now proceeds upon a campaign of oppression that culminates in Ex 1:22, a persistent genocidal attempt to exterminate the Hebrew people.

The first incident of depicted violence comes in Ex 2:11-15, with Moses slaying of an Egyptian for oppressing a Hebrew. The incident doesn’t receive a great deal of commentary, but it’s by no means favourable to Moses, who does not emerge as a triumphant saviour, but a cowardly murderer who flees into exile.

The incident of the Burning Bush and God’s speech in Ex 3:7-10 reveals God as the one who hears the cries of his afflicted and oppressed people, and will intervene to deliver them.

The interplay between Pharaoh, Moses, and God in the next few chapters involves two major factors. Firstly, there is the back-and-forth over the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. At times, he hardens his own heart, at others, God does it. I read here a doctrine of dual agency: both God and Pharaoh are responsible for the hardening of his heart, God in his sovereign electing and providential purposes, Pharaoh in his human sinful responsibility and rebellion. Secondly, the plagues represent both battle and judgment. They are judgments upon Egypt for their sin, rebellion, and part of their curse for cursing God’s people (cf. Gen 12:1-3). They are also defeats of Egypt’s ‘gods’, whose individual realms of jurisdiction are shown to be in the hand of the Almighty. They are the sallies of the Lord as he wages a kind of war against Pharaoh.

All this culminates in the Passover and 10th plague. For in the 10th plague, no distinction is made as regards to guilt and judgment between Egypt and Israel, for both are guilty before the Lord. Rather, God in his grace gives to Israel the means of atonement, the sacrifice of a substitute by whose blood they will be passed over in judgment. This is, in fact, the basis not only for the gospel, but for any Christian ethical approach to violence and judgment. We too are under judgment, and only by grace, the grace of atonement, do we escape it. The death of the firstborn is the crippling blow to Egypt and its ‘gods’. Moreover, it plays of the themes of Israel, the ‘Son of God’, and Pharaoh, the son of a god. YHWH redeems his firstborn son, the sons of Israel, the descendants of Isaac according to promise, while judging and destroying Egypt’s firstborn(s).

That a war motif runs through these chapters is also evident by the repeated instructions to ask the Egyptians for their wealth, and Israel’s carrying this off as plunder. These are spoils of war, which Israel possesses, even though they do none of the fighting throughout the Exodus event. God is the mighty warrior, Israel the passive bystander. Ex 15:3 poetically displays that truth. Not the might of Israel, but the arm of the Lord brings them salvation.

The battle at Rephidim (Ex 17:8-16) is an odd occurrence. Israel’s first physical battle is ultimately carried by the visible sign of Moses’ raised hands. Though I accept it’s a long shot, I see here a faint typology of the Cross, as the victory is accomplished more by the outstretched arms of God’s Servant, than the actual fighting on the ground.

The second major theme of Exodus is built around the Covenant formed at Sinai. Its initiation in chapter 19 sets up Israel as ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Ex 19:6). This dual identity as priests (mediators of God’s presence) and kings (rulers of God’s land), reflects the creation reality of Genesis 1-2, the interior relation of Israel’s kings and priests to Israel’s exterior relation to the nations, points forward to Jesus our High Priest and King of Kings, and by extension to the church’s role in the world in 1 Peter 2:5, Revelation 1:6. This theme I have explored and preached on elsewhere.

This background helps us see the Covenant in a slightly broader salvation-historical context. The details of Chapter 20 should not escape us either, that the giving of the Decalogue is predicated on the prior deliverance wrought by God alone, Ex 20:1-2.
Some will ask no doubt whether Ex 20:13 is a basis for a pacifist ethic, I find it is not. The word choice refers to illegitimate killing, and there is plenty of legitimised killing in the Covenant and OT. However, as you read on through the Torah, the killing is, arguably, judicial. This reflects the overlay of religious and political realities in the nation/ekklesia of Israel.

The conquest of Canaan is spoken of in Ex 23:20-33, and we will speak more of the conquest under Joshua. Note here the emphasis on refraining from Idolatry, and instead on the peace that Israel and the land will experience together.

Most of the later chapters are taken up with Ark building instructions and activities, which I will leave aside. Instead, let’s focus on the incident of the golden calf, which calls forth both a violent purging in Ex 32:25-29, and a plague from God in 32:35. The violence of the purging is shocking to us, but sensical in the ANE context, and reflective of the utter detestation of sin and idolatry that is becoming characteristic of Israel’s life with God. Again, despite its ad hoc nature, it is typically judicial in character, if not formal in conduct.

I suggest then, that the book of Exodus reveals God as the mighty Judge and Warrior. As judge, he visits people to bring punishment for sins, whether within or without God’s people. As Warrior, he is the one who fights for his people, and the strength of his might is such to render them bystanders to his mighty saving deeds.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

False equations: masculinity and violence

Can we move past them?

I'm sick of hearing people say, "I can't imagine Jesus as a wimpy guy. He must have been a tough dude. Therefore pacifism is wrong, and you're not manly enough." [slight caricature, but only slight]

If you equate being masculine with being tough, and physically capable of beating up other men, then your doctrine of humanity is deeply flawed. Most men will never live up to your physical idealisation of masculinity. Some will never be capable of even attempting to do so.

More drastically though, if you build in to your idea of masculinity the idea of violence, then you're tacitly building violence into your idea of the New Creation. The Scriptures image to us that the New Creation will be the restoration, redemption, and perfection of this current one, and so it's theologically naive to suppose that masculine identity innately involves violence, and your heaven is beginning to look more like Valhalla.

So cut that cheap rhetorical trick out of your repertoire. Were Jesus and the apostles physically fit and tough? Probably. Did Jesus or the apostles ever practise or teach self-defence or violence? No. Did Jesus or the apostles at any time teach restraint from violence? Yes. Why then would you keep arguing that violence is somehow integral to being a man?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Introversion and church as community

I’ve been reading McHugh’s very helpful book, Introverts in the Church, and one of his several helpful insights is the way in which evangelical values on relationship and community are expressed in a extraverted way that is problematic for introverts. I could well resonate with him as he spoke about how we often measure people’s spiritual health or commitment to church by assessing what they’re involved in: groups, committees, meetings, etc.. That’s a mistake when it comes to introverts.

It caused me to think a bit more about the ‘Total Church’ “model”, and a question I should have asked Timmis or Chester when I had the chance. Their vision of gospel community sounds incredibly relationally-intense. When Timmis talks about spending most of his day with others, and jokes that often the only time he is alone is when he goes to sleep, sharing a bed only with his wife, his vision of gospel community begins to sound like an introvert’s nightmare.

How do we build a real and close-knit community, while respecting that introverts really do need time alone to recharge? On the one hand, we don’t want to just give introverts a pass-out card, as if their personality gives them the option to opt-out. At the same time, it would be a mistake, and a sinful one, simply to tell introverts to ‘toughen up’ and get on with sharing 17/7. Especially for introverts whose work-life is already people-centred. For those introverts, much of their relational energy will be drained by work itself, which means the rest of their time they’re probably looking to recharge. I imagine there would be nothing worse for an introvert than to spend 8 hours being emotionally drained working with people, and then come home to a house full of exuberant Christians who dropped by for a meal and prayer!

We need to do better on this.

The way we play is a mirror of our values

I don’t think Christians have done very well in the realm of ‘play’. We have very poor theologies of art, entertainment, leisure, and representation. A reformation inheritance has tended to downplay the importance of ‘play’ in life, and so relegated it entirely to the realm of childhood, which has meant it’s not a topic for serious discourse, and it’s something we want children to give up and grow out of.

However play is very important. Ask some developmentalist-types and they’ll tell you that. But what I want to ponder today is how play is important to social development and social normalisation. My hunch is this: the way we play, or what we play, is often an idealisation of cultural values. Now, I’m not trying to draw a very straight line, as if every act of play is of deep significance, that cruelty to animals or violent video games are automatic producers of serial killers. Read a few research papers and those links are tenuous at best. No, rather the imaginative worlds people regularly inhabit, have a formative effect on their values.

This is why I’m opposed as a Christian to violent games on the whole. Actually, I think a distinction needs to be made between representations of violence and simulations of violence. It is simulations of violence that I’m opposed to. Not because I think simulating violence produces violent people, but because simulating violence helps build up a mindset in which violence is normalised and legitimised.

If the Christian vision of the world is one of the ingathering of the nations into the church, the body of Christ which consists of a new humanity not riven by ethnic and national divisions, why would I want to uphold and honour the professional soldiery of nation-states, whose basic allegiance is to defend the sovereignty of nations by means of killing others, when the whole gospel is subversive of nations by declaring them and us both equal and in solidarity in Christ? If the pattern of Christ is submission even unto death, why would we model our play on self-assertion to the point of death?

The core of the Christian gospel is that Christ came to die to accomplish our redemption and reconciliation, so that the pattern of his life has become the pattern of Christian life. Conflict, within the NT, such as it is, is never about force of arms. Not from Christians. So why would we inculcate the values of a foreign belief system about violence, in our leisure and play, especially for our children?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why we failed at 'Total Church'

On Friday I sat in on a session at college with aspiring church planters and Steve Timmis. It made me realise something that I think I'd not quite grasped previously. That is how "radically radical" the reshaping around community really is.

I first read Total Church back in 2008, and it really resonated with me (as it did for many others). I suspect the call to a reshaping around gospel and community filled something of a void for many Sydney-siders, who generally feel ecclesiologically lite and have a slight suspicion (a fundamental conviction in my case) that maybe the Anabaptists were right on this one all along.

Listening to Timmis talk on Friday, and field questions from the students, I was struck by how different his life is shaped. Their community group really does 'do life' together - eating, going out, leisure, errands, jobs, and so on. Whereas in our culture (and I imagine UK culture too), we are conditioned around doing things in family units at best. What is it truly like to spend most meals with people not from your family? To have a fairly open drop-around culture with fellow christians? To never have the sense of 'this is my time to do solely as I please', but always to be asking what it is to love those around me, which will then include time for myself and my wife?

The reason why Sydney (Anglicans) love and fail at a total-church model is that we're not truly convicted enought to embrace the communitarianism that it's suggesting. We're looking for sunday service + home groups on steroids. But it's more than that. It's a counter-cultural pattern of communitarian life that will upside-down our individual and individualistic agendas.

The two best things we did in my context were for our evening service to share dinner every fortnight (not my idea), and for my home group to eat together every week. These two factors by themselves greatly increased our sense of 'community', but they didn't challenge our underlying cultural assumptions and commitments. We never quite got to 'doing life together' in a full-time capacity, and so we never quite got to 'doing mission as community'.

Timmis and Chester's suggestion for those in a position where they aren't leaders or have some kind of reshaping power, is simply to start living it out, set an example. But I suspect this is not quite enough. We need to grasp and thus to be challenged and provoked to see and to believe this reshaping around community. Living in each other's pockets in a post-community 21st century atomistic and alienating society is a radical break, and it's not one that comes from a few shared meals, but from a shared gospel understanding.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why solid reformed doctrines are the basis of a biblical pacifism

Thanks to the insights of a good friend doing some work on Yoder as part of his doctoral thesis, I'm inclined to think that Yoder has a similar problem to Hauerwas, a gaping hole in his theology of atonement, that undoes the central theological underpinning of pacifism. In this post I want to explore how the kind of pacifism I advocate is theologically grounded in classical reformed doctrines. I wish I had a snappy name for it, but really I just think it is a deeply biblical pacifism.

I suppose that a logical place to begin with is with total depravity. To recognise that all human beings are born in sin, are affected by sin, are shot through and through with the corrupting and tainting power and influence of sin, so that in every aspect of their image-bearing being they are sinful, is the frank and stark assessment of humanity that comes from this reading of the scriptures. The corollary to this is that it is through the original sin, the Fall, that death enters the world as judgment, so that all have sinned and so all fall under the judgment of God, the sentence of death. Death is inevitable, and deserved. Those two twin facts underpin this biblical pacifism.

That all have sinned, that sin is judged, that God opposes evil through his judgment, set the frame against which a doctrine of substitutionary atonement makes sense. That the Christ died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins and so ransom and redeem us by the price of his blood, is the good news, the gospel, which means both that neither do we have a judgment to pay (death), nor a judgment to enact.

Closely linked to the doctrine of atonement though must be an eschatology of Christ's return, his second coming not to die a second time, but as judge of the earth. So that, those who have rejected the atoning work of the cross will face the defeat (as evildoers) and their judgment (as transgressors and rebels), as eternal death, even as Christ's return brings vindication for his forgiven people and resurrection to eternal life. The sure hope of eternal resurrection life is a necessary hope for those who would embrace biblical pacifism.

Lastly in this whistlestop tour, biblical pacifism is grounded in a high view of the Sovereignty of God. That he is the almighty transcendent Creator who made all things, rules all things, works in and through all things to achieve his good and glorious purposes, is the basis of a faith that can trust in his outcome, more than our methods.

If you don't believe in total depravity, then some are more deserving of death than others, because sin is not innate and all-encompassing, and so some have more right than others. biblical pacifism rejects the pride that privileges the life of self and kin over the stranger, because it is no respecter of persons.

If you don't believe in God's judgment, then this life is the only context in which good can triumph, justice can be done, and vengeance taken. Which means that if men don't do it in this world, it won't get done. biblical pacifism rather trusts that God will bring justice, and if not in this life, how much worse in the final judgment.

If you don't trust in the atonement, then there's no surety of forgiveness, which means you have no basis to extend forgiveness to others.

If you don't believe in the second coming, then God's ultimate judgment will never come, and so evil must be defeated in this life, in this world.

If you don't believe in the resurrection, then life is worth killing for.

And if you don't trust in the Sovereignty of God, you must seek to control and determine things for yourself.

It's not any kind of optimism about our world that drives this biblical pacifism, but a profound optimism about God and his redemptive and ultimate purposes.

And you see, this is why biblical pacifism can play the card of "It's more important to be faithful than to secure the right outcome." It's because (a) the 'right' outcome is ultimately secured not by our actions so much as God's goodness, sovereignty, justice, and atoning death in Christ. It's because (b) means create ends, ends do not justify means, and so faithfulness in act will result in faithful outcomes, even if these seem bad or wrong. It's because (c) ultimately we trust that faithfulness will be more effective in securing right outcomes, but we don't lose anything when they don't. It's because (d) we have already died to self, lost all, and been forgiven with a resurrection hope, so we have nothing to lose in martyrdom, but everything to lose in unfaithfulness.

How misunderstood: America and Australia

We've had a week now of our MA course on American Protestantism. We haven't actually covered that much temporally, a lot of work understanding the founding fathers, puritans, the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings, early American Methodism, and a final lecture on Abraham Lincoln and American Civil Religion.

I think it was this last lecture that really brought home the major and remarkable differences between Australia and America. The idea that many Americans sincerely believe in America's exceptionalism, and a mission of sharing the blessing of democracy of the world, alongside a historical period where virtually the whole (European) population was evangelical, are things very, very strange to us. The whole cult of American civil religion, of public discourse about the relationship between 'God' (however vague) and the nation, and the trappings of ritual, of pledges of allegiance and flag-reverence, are entirely foreign to Australians. We regard them with incredulity, cynicism, and fail to understand that Americans take these things seriously.

As to a sense of national identity and shared national destiny, we have little. Australia has few historical defining moments, except perhaps for the mythologising of Gallipoli, and little in the way of shared national cultural values. That underlies some of our ongoing and endless debates about what Australia stands for. Our political discourse cannot sustain anything like the self-assured bombast of Bush or the optimistic high-flying rhetoric of an Obama. Politicians here all lack the integrity to pull it off, and we are too cynical to believe them anyway. That's why our current election is dominated by 'the economy', the only transcendent we can generate (except for the growing and competitive worship of 'the environment'). Most Australians avoid the big questions of life, have little sense of eternity, and when those questions arise our culture encourages suppression of reflection in favour of binge-drinking.

If I sound down on our nation, by no means think that I've come to some new found admiration of America! A new found appreciation for your history, perhaps, but my own cynicism of politics runs deep, and your civil religion dances dangerously with nationalism, fascism, and an idolatry of the state.

Our nations are further apart than many superficial similarities would suggest.

Life beyond Facebook

I'm not sure how long it's been. Perhaps a month? Perhaps less, perhaps more. No, at least I month I think, since I deleted my facebook account.

At the time it was a combination of two factors. Firstly I was pretty fed-up with fb's changing terms of service and privacy policy. It was about the time of that last, latest kerfuffle over that issue. I'm not interested in fb linking and co-ordinating more and more data and making it more and more available to more people.

Secondly, it was about time. At my desk the need is for focus, sustained attention to my work. And fb, regardless of whether at work or home or anywhere, is a terrible, addictive substance. The desire to be connected, and to know what is going on, and to refresh endlessly to obtain either the latest trivia from people I half-know, or validation on the social propriety and wit of my own latest status update.

I am not much inclined to moderation. on/off is how my brain likes to work. so i just deleted the whole thing.

One of the things I feel is a sense of liberation. i'm *free* from fb. life carries on and i'm none the worse for it. it certainly has helped focus my work day. and oddly, ditching fb is it's own kind of cutting edge of valueless cool.

The other side of it though, is that I'm still quite aware that fb is a rapidly but well-entrenched part of many people's social life. There are conversations and connections that happen in a web of connectivity that i'm no longer part of. Things occur that I don't know about, or am not invited to, simply because of technological hermiting. Occasionally someone gets personally frustrated with me for not being on fb, like it's some kind of violation of a new social contract.

Which it's not. Social networking is just another tool. A tool like no other tool before it, but a tool nonetheless. And one you can live without.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thesis writing and MA auditing

Well, it looks like all the dramas of moving are over, except for initiating some kind of complaint process with our bad cleaners.

I'm trying at the moment to write my thesis in some kind of earnest. If you recall my basic premise: to test for the presence of 9 specific criteria that will help cast Chrysostom in a pro-Nicene camp for his hermeneutical method, then what I am currently doing is working criteria by criteria, browsing through my extensive notes on the Homilies, and writing a section on each criterion. I find a number of key passages, quote them in translation (my own), cite the greek in a footnote, and then talk about what Chrysostom is doing and how the criterion is in operation. This should form the bulk of my 30,000 words. Once I finish this, I need to do some work in section 2, which is introducing the criteria and my rationale for them, along with some non-Chrysostom illustration (perhaps) of them. And then I need to step back to section 1, which is introductory material, to cover Eunomius and a few other things.

So, considerable work to be done. I still have some other secondary literature I need to read, as well.

At the same time I am auditing some MA subjects, which graciously my college permits research students to do at no extra cost. This week and next I'm sitting in and enjoying (so far), "American Protestantism" with Robert Lindar. American history in general, and religious history at all, is really a hole in my understanding of world history, and this is certainly filling in some gaps, as well as a very non-related area to most of my studies. I'm also down to do Galatians with Philip Kern, which should be excellent. The only downside of this is that it's chewing up 18hours of my week, so I'm not as focused and productive elsewhere as I could be.

So these two commitments have put some other things on hold. Once these 3 weeks are up I hope to find a bit more time to allocate for the McGuffey, Orberg, and Gregory side-projects. Ideally, I'll finish up the thesis ahead of the end of the year, and if I don't immediately fall into a job, I'll be able to get the Gregory reader completed quickly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The dramas of moving

Well, we moved. And I thought it was all over, but alas no.

I spent the bulk of the first week packing up our house, which was time consuming but necessary. Removalists cam on the Friday and were quite efficient, and we were all moved over in a few hours. Just a matter of unpacking all those boxes! Which we made a start on the following weekend.

Back at the old place, I did a few trips to clear out the last of our stuff, and we arranged for some cleaners to come in, and finally I sold up a few items on ebay. The keys were handed in on the Thursday, and I thought we had seen the last of things. Over the weekend then we managed to acquire 3 wardrobes (with thanks to my good friend and handyman (aka Math teacher) Dave).

Alas, on Monday our former real estate got in touch to say the house was not up to scratch. The cleaners had left several things undone or not done well. Plus, there was some gardening they wanted done too. So today I was back over at the house in the rain, gardening away. And probably some more gardening in the rain tomorrow.

All this amounts to about 3 weeks in total disruption to my studies, which I'm none too pleased with. I was hoping to settle back into routine this week and get most of my thesis written up. Instead I am disrupted for most of the rest of the week again. The following 3 weeks I have some scheduled classes to attend on American Protestantism and Galatians, so less time than usual there.

Anyway, tonight is a good night, since our internet has finally been moved over to our new place, and that's why you're getting a little blog post to update you on life. Once things get a bit more settled, then we'll see about some more Greek/SLA/Thesis/Patristics related posts.