Saturday, December 10, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
- Missionaries need to be culturally sensitive;
- Missionaries need to be at least as concerned with those who do believe as those who do not - this is not a numbers game;
- Missionaries need to be good, upstanding Christians themselves
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
- Why can’t I resize the “Mailbox” panel in Mail to the size I want? So what if I want it too small to be useful!
- Why does Mail have to reindex the mail boxes again? This hasn’t taken too long for me but for my colleague...well, it’s still going!
- The scrolling goes the WRONG WAY!
- I have to download a new XCode; but it was for free, thankfully!
- At work I have two monitors; the one on the laptop and an external. Why oh why does it maximize the application to my laptop monitor when it was originally on my external? How annoying! How dumb!
- It looks like iTunes; everything looks like iTunes...like everything!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
When we make statements such as:
- the “church” should do...
- the “church” should be...
Exactly what do we mean? The word “church” seems to have too many meanings and the meaning often depends on the person making the statement. Let’s take a quick - and not necessarily well thought out look - at what these statements might mean uttered by an insider and uttered by an outsider.
Let’s be clear here. We’re talking about Christian churches. There are, no doubt, other bodies that might identify themselves a “church” although with the bad rap that the Christian church has consistently gotten I’m not sure that’s such a wise move; and here I am saying that as a Christian church goer!
So, let’s start from the inside. Most Christians agree that the church should help the poor and needy. Most Christians believe the church should spread God’s word. But what does that mean? Sometimes this is used as a form of criticism, implying that the church doesn’t do enough of what it should be doing, if doing any of it at all. At other times it could be a call, almost a command to the church to actually do whatever it is that we’re supposing it should be doing.
Hence, the first form “should do” could be a gentle encouragement, a command, a criticism. It could even be an explanation and even an apologetic. This innocuous term “should do” turns up in so many forms but I feel its most insidious form is the form of negative criticism.
The issue here is that when you get a bunch of church goers, insiders as it were, all debating what the church should be doing, they paradoxically forget what the church should be doing: being a witness to the kingdom of God, inviting all to a change of heart that they might share in the life of the triune God.
Trust me, when you see church goers all in heated debate with each other they’re not always particularly nice about it. If you sense one person or faction is really throwing metaphorical “brick bats” at the other side you’re probably not seeing things. They very well might be.
Outsiders, I sense, use the two words in the same sense and more for constructive or negative criticism. The problem is that they often fail to identify that although there is “one holy, catholic and apostolic” church they’re not all one denomination. The biggest confusion that I find outsiders committing using these two forms is that they honestly don’t quite know to what they are referring.
Not all churches are mega-churches. Not all church goers like the types of services typified by the Hill Song church. Not all churches enjoy liturgical garb. Some churches seem not to exist for a reason that Jesus might recognise at all. This doesn’t mean one can suddenly turn around and say “The church should do/be...” simply on the basis of that one church or part of a church.
Is this a problem of English usage? Yes and no. Today the word “church” often holds negative connotations for outsiders and even some insiders and the word “should” upsets our individualistic, “I did it my way” enlightened attitude. Given these, it might be somewhat useful to unravel the words and find something less likely to cause an unproductive squabble, rant or rave and something that actually discusses what the church should be or should do in a calm, civilised manner.
Different Ways We Use “Church”
When we say “church” we could mean:
- a church building
- a church parish we belong to
- a church denomination within orthodox Christianity
- a denomination that is not within orthodox Christianity (but still claims to be Christian)
- a congregation
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I work within the IT industry and specifically as a computer programmer. Although it is always somewhat dubious to “extend” one’s limited perspective “onto” others it seems that many people in the IT industry with whom I work and associate do not accept any of the canonical gospel’s accounts of what Jesus proclaimed.
Consequently, my experience with the people I tend to work with and share a professional life with is a decided “Jesus NO!”
Furthermore, the churches of various denominations have all been embroiled in varying degrees of turmoil. These range from sex scandals that have been covered up through to evangelists who seem more concerned about using donations to fund their own life styles rather than helping the poor, needy and outcast.
Consequently, my experience here with the people I tend to work with and share a professional life with is a decided “Church NO!” and sometimes worse “I wish it never existed.”
Spirituality Yes - Church No
I must say that people within the IT industry seem quite impervious to spirituality and religion including Christianity. Those who are either tend to lie low. This may be because people in the IT industry tend to consider themselves somewhat more rational than others - something I would contend is not actually true - and tend to rely more on some form of scientific method to determine what happens in the world.
This “scientific method” appears to be “any method not involving spirituality or religion.”
That said, if I were to expand into my acquaintances there is some truth to this matter. Understanding “church” as “Christian church” (as opposed to, say a Buddhist Temple), most of my friends do have some form of spiritual beliefs or at least respect the spiritual beliefs of others.
But most of them are quick to point out the church’s shortcomings.
Where do I sit? I’m the odd guy in the IT industry who likes to have a Bible (or two) sitting on his desk, who isn’t afraid to patiently discuss what being Christian means to me with my fellow colleagues and who isn’t of the fundamentalist, bible bashing, I am always right variety.
Monday, March 07, 2011
In this week we were asked to learn a little about what theology is. Whilst the details, to me, are not boring I am sure you don’t want to know them all. Let’s just say that I learned that theology is talk about God. Splitting this into its two root constituents – both Greek – we have God (theos) and word (logos). It is like the other “ology” subjects – spirit (psyche) and word (logos), life (bios) and word logos).
However theology is more like those subjects as well. Just as there is clinical psychology, applied psychology or even electrical engineering and software engineering, so there are different types of theological study. Some types are: biblical theology, historical theology, pastoral or applied theology and systematic theology.
We will be studying systematic theology.
In brief the goal of systematic theology is to discuss the overarching topics within theology in one, integrated whole. It aims to logically discuss this God-talk in a fashion that presents what we understand of God’s talk to ourselves, to each other and to God. From what I have read, it is a very old way of doing Christian theology. Origen, Aquinas, Luther, Barth and Calvin have all participated in this type of theology. Today I was at Barr Smith library and was simply looking at the more than 20 volumes of Luther’s theology; it was a far cry from the monk who stuck a small set of complaints on a church door!
The text book, Daniel L. Migliore’s “Faith Seeking Understanding – An Introduction to Christian Theology”, is clearly written from an Episcopalian, somewhat liberal point of view. Migliore claims his method is heavily influenced by Barth but I have not read enough Barth to know the nuance this gives the methodology. That said, I have no particular reason to doubt Migliore’s word and given the book is in its second edition I would hope that another person, academic or otherwise, might have challenged him to change this statement if it weren’t true.
This disposition suits me. I have discovered, quite by accident, that I am most definitely of the Anglican heritage (the Episcopalian Church is the equivalent, in the USA, of the Anglican Church in Australia). In fact, to my consternation, I have discovered that I have accepted its traditions without necessarily knowing exactly what I was accepting or knowing the great debates, schisms and angst that came eventually to set those traditions in place. As Janet, my local priest said, “You’ll find that it will challenge you to think!”
Hence, as a more liberal, Episcopalian text book, I have not found – yet – that it says anything I strongly disagree with. That said, it’s a very different text to Alistair E. McGrath’s “Christian Theology – An Introduction.” It is hard to pin-point the exact difference but McGrath tends to take a more expository and historical approach to the subject matter. Migliore clearly invites the reader to believe with him and take the journey with him whilst McGrath is more like a tutor who gently guides you along the path towards knowledge. This is not to say that McGrath is any less a theologian or Christian than Migliore (in fact it’s McGrath’s fault I joined the course) it is simply, I think, a matter of text style.
So, I took to reading the text book. I read up until the Good Creation (Chapter 5). And then I fell on a stumbling block. The Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost – has been a given of my faith. It is something that my Anglican heritage has “passed over” to me. It is the very definition of “tradition”. So, as I read Migliore’s chapter on “The Triune God” it became increasingly clear to me that I wasn’t following the logic.
I want to get something straight here though. I never have found it difficult to believe that one God can be the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, all at one time. I don’t recite the Nicene-Constantinople creed like a parrot. I recite it because I believe in it and I can believe in it. That said, though, I’ve always left “how God can be one in three” up to the theologians and I’ve never particularly thought more of what the Trinity means other than God is both one and three.
And the wheels fell off my studying a little. For a number of days now it’s as though I had been walking around in fog wrestling with this concept. I posted a little of my confusion to the student forum. The lecturer was kind enough to respond and helped point me gently in the right direction. I decided that I needed to get some historical background on all of this, so I read up McGrath’s excellent summary of historical theology in his introductory textbook (although he acknowledges it as somewhat of a whirlwind tour) and his chapter on the Trinity.
But I still didn’t get it.
So, after reading Migliore’s chapter yet again I threw my hands in the air and decided to study the first reading which I have to do in any case. I found a lot of value in that reading. Migliore takes a more process-centric approach, for want of a better description, to describe the task of theology. He states what it can be, how some have questioned it and how he agrees with some of those questions. He talks about what questions need to be asked and how one can answer them. Yet the reading, by Mark McIntosh, the third chapter “Becoming a Theologian” in his book “Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology” discusses how theology is God Himself talking.
It could be accused of being some sort of “cute” turn around but the words ring true for me. Raising such matters as it being very difficult to actually “get” God-talk (theology) without believing in God, McIntosh shows how our beliefs and our frameworks can affect our theology. He also discusses a method to validate our theology but not in the usual critical sense. Given that we are to believe (if he is to be believed) that “good” theology is actually God talking or having a conversation with us, it is somewhat difficult to prove what the subject is saying – how does one prove that the theologian is not talking to the wrong spirit and such? But one way that one can is by watching the change in the theologian, a method well put in a number of sermons or addresses by John Henry Newman.
How does this lead to where I am taking us now? I had one of those “Ah Hah” moments. Another student had sowed the seed by pointing me to the Epistle to the Philippians which indicates that Jesus had form before he was incarnate. I had somehow remembered that McGrath in another book, “Historical Theology – An Introduction” had said that Augustine of Hippo had described the Holy Ghost as “Love” but also that Augustine had used a very “relational” way of describing the Trinity. And this made Migliore suddenly “click”.
So I can see how the Unitarianism of the Father, or the Redeemer or the Spirit can lead to some particularly un-Christian like results. It suddenly made sense to me when Migliore would discuss the relationship or interaction between the three “Persons” in the Trinity. And finally, a word from McGrath stuck in my mind – “Tri-Unity”. It suddenly dawned on me that, “I still have a lot to learn but now I’m beginning to grasp why this somewhat difficult and complex Trinity concept is actually useful.”
At the end of the study week – I have decided my study week ends on Monday nights – I feel exhausted and exhilarated. Reaching out a little further afield than the prescribed text book and texts (somehow I got a treatise on Tertullian when I wanted a summary of Augustine’s Trinitas), I do feel that I am not alone in this.
It’s been a long journey and I honestly feel God is walking there with me – I wonder if it would be too cheeky to ask him to write my essays?
That’s all for now!
Migliore, D. L. (2004). Faith seeking understanding : an introduction to Christian theology (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.
McGrath, A. E. (2011). Christian theology : an introduction (5th ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. ; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
McIntosh, M. A. (2008). Divine teaching : an introduction to Christian theology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
I'm not interested in reconciling the two stories or trying to document the Documentary Hypothesis. Nor do I wish to engage with Schofield and others who maintain that Moses was the author of at least the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. I want to comment on the passage itself.
Disregarding how God made the Earth in one day - or even if He did - the Earth had no shrubs and no vegetation. Yet, a mist would spring forth from the ground. It is from the barren Earth that God formed a human - Adam (which means human) - from the ground. The name Adam, meaning human, is male but it is not the human's gender that is the wonder. The Bible states, "The Lord God...breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." However one wishes to interpret this, God gave man life. That is what this part of Genesis is telling me.
Then God planted a garden. It was good to the sight and its goodness needs to be understood as the goodness as described to the Hebrew people. Everything was there to be had excepting the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then God decided man needed a helper of some forth and began to create animals that might help the man but no animal could really provide the type of help the man needed.
So God created a woman out of the man. Adam takes this woman as his own flesh and a gift, a help from God. The chapter ends with both man and woman naked and unashamed.
Stop combatting the words and what do you take from these verses? Here's what I take from them:
1. God is the creator, the instigator of the creation but neither this passage nor the previous chapter are meant to fill in every small detail - if they did the Bible wouldn't get past the first chapter or maybe even verse (think of all the dull physics, chemistry, biology it would contain).
2. Water is somehow there even though the land is barren; even though there has been no rains brought by God or nature, there is a mist; a primeval mist maybe.
3. The first human, Adam (human), was formed from the dust of the Earth but this leaves the how up to God. All it states is that God breathed in man life but it doesn't state how.
4. God caused a garden to grow and in that garden was one of His special trees, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; rather than keep man from this tree and not share with man this garden which is described as a most pleasing place to be, God allows the two humans to be there but they're not allowed to eat His tree lest they die.
5. Modern humans might find this a little disturbing, we don't like such arbitrary authority. Yet, surely we've left friends, kids and loved ones in our places of trust sometimes saying "Don't drink all the soft drink" and such. When I leave my friends in my house or let them go to the bathroom in my house it's understood that they shouldn't go snooping in my private drawers in my room which has nothing to do with them even though the door is open and inviting them.
6. That said, God realised man was alone and there was no help for him. Help implies subordination but it's hard to translate that word. Woman was more man's equal - she was more a companion, a support to him as he was to her. If man only needed a subordinate surely one of the animals would have sufficed.
7. Adam rejoices in his new found companion and the Bible comments on how this justifies a man and woman being together as companions. Note that it doesn't say "No sexual relations" or anything puritanical like that.
8. It ends showing that Adam and Eve (the man and woman) were both still blissfully unaware of their nakedness.
So, God simply says He created things with one broad brush. It would have been nice if He'd explained physics, chemistry and biology and the rest at the same time, but that isn't the purpose of Genesis. That said, the Earth we are shown being created isn't so different from what we would expect. God isn't describing an alien setting to us. God gave us life. God is able to place us in situations of great goodness and at least, then, believed He could trust us not to tamper with His "special things". I'm certain He could have simply surrounded the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with angels wielding swords but instead He chose to give us our own free will and to make up our own minds. That said, God wasn't able to find an animal quite like the man so he created a similar being but slightly different; nonetheless she wasn't subordinate but she was of his flesh and he was meant to be joined to her flesh. They were one.
Most of all, we were born and created in innocence.
These conclusions, I believe, are universal and it is up to us, with our faith and science to figure out how God managed this feat as best we can. But just because we may one day figure it out, doesn't put God out of the picture. It just means we understand His story a little better.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Valjean gives Cosette the story of his life and those who’ve always loved her. It’s the truth she wanted at the start of the act. Fantine’s spirit then beckons him to her, to a place where chains will never bind him and his grief will no longer be there. Valjean responds by asking forgiveness from God. Fantine’s spirit and Eponine’s spirit urge Valjean to take his hand and lead him to salvation. They give him their love and finally they sing “to love another person is to see the face of God.”
I’ve always loved this scene. It is so powerful, so evocative and so moving. It has so many subtle shades of meaning. Valjean is feeling alone and frightened. He wants to be brought home where home clearly means to heaven with God. He’s penned an answer to Cosette his daughter when at first he was hesitant to do so. He’s not able to wish his daughter and son-in-law well at their wedding so he prays that they will. And he knows he is dying.
Valjean is not only alone but he is feeling a deep loneliness. Yet, two spirits, his daughter and son-in-law appear as if from nowhere to comfort him. Although Les Miserables isn’t overtly religious it is set against a very heavy religious background. The book begins with the good Bishop of Digne and whilst the Bishop’s role is not expounded as much in the musical - anyone who has read the book would know why - it is clear that the Bishop isn’t just any normal Catholic dignitary. The musical’s story line effectively ends with the word “God”.
And it is clear what their job is: to reassure him that he is blessed, that his sins are forgiven and the has a place in heaven. And that he has unknowingly seen one of the face’s of God. There’s no magic or witchcraft in Les Miserables; it’s obvious who sent Fantine and Eponine back to Valjean to comfort him. It was God.
When Valjean prayed to God in his loneliness, thinking he was alone, God sent him comfort both physical and spiritual. This is one of the meanings I get from this song.
Cosette knows there’s something odd about their life. They’re always keeping to themselves and one can imagine how she’s not allowed to get too close to the other children or their families. She’d also notice the strange generosity of her father. But most of all, even though I understand many richer people in France at the time employed nannies, she would not have known her mother. She points this out to her father, Valjean who is also musing about how their odd life is affecting his daughter.
She wants to know the truth. Hinting that there are truths that she may not want her to know, Valjean tries to put her off. I’d imagine she would be old enough to attract a university student so she’d be just after her teens or maybe eighteen or nineteen and I would suppose any parent of a young girl would know just how persistent young girls can be.
Valjean eventually responds that “truth is given by God in our time, in our turn”.
And there is God again. Does God allow the truth to be known to her? Yes, yes he does. But it’s not always a palatable truth. Fantine’s husband - Fantine is Cosette’s mother - dumped her because of Cosette. Fantine worked as a prostitute and caught the consumption. Because of the dire circumstances, Fantine had to leave Cosette with the Thenardiers who are at best physically abusive and certainly spent as little as they could on her. Her adopted father is a convicted criminal who escaped once and has lived a life as someone else for a good number of years. These are truths in the era that Les Miserables is set in that you do not want to know. They’re uncomfortable and they’re enough to make you an outcast.
But Valjean’s words to her are these are stories of those who always loved her. These are the stories that are true, no hidden stories, warts and all.
This says to me that God didn’t hide the truth from her. He may have withheld it for some time - a revolution and finding a new love kind of got in the way - but when He did allow it to be given, it was the full truth. Not some child’s version; and reading between the lines one can sense that Cosette’s grown up enough to make sense of it.
We can talk very quickly about the wedding. It certainly does go well, except the Thenardiers gate crash the reception. Although this could have taken a bad turn of events, Mr. Thenardier presents Marius with Marius’ own ring and Marius realises just who actually saved him. After dispatching the Thenardiers with a few good punches, he runs off before Valjean can leave for England thus setting the scene for the scene I am discussing.
Some might say that this was providence but was it? Did Valjean’s prayers in “Bring Him Home” go unnoticed? Did his prayers that the two may be blessed go unnoticed? No, they did not.
And finally, he knows he is dying. Yet God sends his family and the spirits from the past to comfort him and to reassure him that even though he is dying - there’s going to be no magical recovery for him - he has earned himself a place in heaven with God.
Les Miserables is an absolutely fantastic musical with songs that are comical, sad, uplifting and sometimes downright depressing. There are so many ways to understand it and work with its story and its message.
But the story makes no sense without God - and just like today, He’s not part of the active cast but He’s very much active throughout the musical.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Subject consists of a number of modules which follow the structure of the text book Faith Seeking Understanding by D. Migliore, with two essays and participation as the method of assessment. The essays seem "short" for their subjects especially since other theologians have written tens of thousands of pages on any of their subjects. Whereas, we have less than 2001 words to justify them.
Ah well, the joy of University.
Friday, January 28, 2011
So, Jesus Christ Superstar has a number of characters. The principal protagonist is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Lord. The principal antagonist, of course, is Jesus Himself. Then there are the other apostles, the priests, the Roman guard, Pontius Pilate and a support crew who variously play the poor, those who are sick and the crowds. In Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene is given what I would term a major-minor role. Given that this is meant to be a plot summary as opposed to an analysis I will not discuss this role yet.
In the beginning are words but these words are the words of Judas. He is complaining to Jesus that they are “getting much too loud” and that Jesus’ followers are “blind” because they have too much “heaven on their mind”. It is a succinct and powerful way to paint a picture of what has happened without actually having to show it being played out. Jesus uses no words to respond although it is clear by His facial expressions and the interaction with Judas that He’s fed up with hearing it.
The next scene has the apostles asking “What’s the buzz?” The words and questioning are rhythmic but it is clear that they are sung with a contemporary (for the 1960s) tone. There are no “thees” and no “thous”. They do not elevate Jesus to a divine being unless the plot requires it. In between Jesus berating the disciples for worrying too much about the future and being too ready for fighting, he says they should go back to fishing. It is here we meet Mary Magdalene.
Mary begins to minister to Jesus in an almost sensual, provocative way. Remembering that her actual profession is a prostitute, Judas wonders why Jesus lets her do this. Judas is worried that this will attract attention from the authorities and claims he is not bothered by her profession. He claims that “she doesn’t fit in well with what you [Jesus] teach and say.” This prompts Jesus’ first outburst. He shouts at Judas and asks him “[w]ho are you to criticise her?” He then goads the others to “throw stones” but only if their “slate is clean”. He states they are all ‘shallow, thick and slow’ and that they do not care if He comes or goes. All but Judas contradicts this last accusation but Jesus emphasis that not one of them do.
I must say I love the next scene and song. Mary, who alone understands what Jesus needs, is trying to calm Him down. Realising that He is all too human she ministers cooling water and ointment to Him reassuring Him that “everything’s alright” and the “world can turn without [him] tonight.” Judas, though, says that using the ointment to soothe Jesus is wasteful and “should have been saved for the poor.” Turning to Jesus, Judas claims that the poor, the starving and hungry need this money more than Jesus needs the anointment. Jesus responds that there will “always be poor, pathetically struggling” and they should take stock of the good things they have. He then boldly states that they will be “so so sorry when [he’s] gone.” Mary takes the oil back from Judas who looks suitably annoyed and continues to minister to Jesus who finally falls back to sleep.
In the temple Caiaphas has called a meeting of the council. As High Priest he is concerned that this Jesus will overturn the established order and cannot understand how Jesus is so popular despite the lack of riots, mobbing or slogans. He senses prophetically that their position will be eliminated “because of one man.” The other priests cannot figure out what to do since Jesus was “bigger than John when John did his Baptism thing.” Caiaphas - who says the other priests are fools - says that “like John before him, this Jesus must die.” Perhaps because of Caiaphas’ high position they wholeheartedly agree with him and each other.
In the next scene there is a huge crowd but they are singing a celebration. Jesus has arrived at Jerusalem and in childlike joy they are greeting Jesus with a stylised version of “Hosanna”. Caiaphas, on the other hand, is not too impressed. He tries to silence the crowd but Jesus retorts that even if the crowd fell silent “the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.”
Meanwhile, the crowd’s song has turned from childlike joy to a call for Jesus to fight for them. The musical moves into a new number where Simon Zealotes is encouraging Jesus to start a more military-like campaign. He claims there must be more than fifty thousand and that they are as strong as the Roman occupiers of the land. The crowds are joyfully singing their love for Jesus and claim they believe in Him and God. They clearly believe that Jesus can save them even by a touch or a kiss.
Jesus is having none of this call to arms and turns to the crowds and tells them all they do not understand what power or glory is. He implies that he knows Jerusalem is doomed and that the only way to overcome death is to actually die.
Pontius Pilate has had a dream. He has dreamed he has met a Galilean who was a very strange man who refused to answer his questions even though Pontius was the Emperor’s own representative on earth. He foresees “thousands of millions” calling for this man’s execution and foresees that they will name and blame him.
The next day Jesus is at the Temple, the place where God Himself might come down in a cloud to address His chosen people. Yet, Jesus encounters merchants selling all types of goods including wine, birds and even selling bets on cock fights. He sees money lenders peddling their services and then He becomes angry and throws all these people out singing “[m]y house should be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves!”
After this, flocks of poor people, sick people, lame people and the downtrodden are tracking down Jesus to be healed. They clearly believe a touch or kiss from Jesus could mend all their ailments. However, Jesus, being crowded and pushed by these downtrodden people yells at them, “Heal yourselves!”
To be continued...
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Most of my generation would know the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Its most famous number, of course, is the title named after the musical but there are two other well-known tracks, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Everything’s All Right” as well. In its time it caused some raucous because of its portrayal of the gospel stories and the movie certainly caused some stir - not just for the way the story is told but also some of the sets - since when did they have machine guns in the 1st century? They didn’t.
The musical tells the gospel story from Judas Iscariot’s perspective. Judas betrayed Jesus so that Jesus could provide the ultimate sacrifice. Although the gospels talk a lot about the disciples they really don’t say too much about them apart from the fact that even though they were Jesus’ chosen ones, they too had a lot of difficulty and even hardness of heart understanding his message.
Although Jesus stated He, and therefore His Father, would raise them to be the leaders of Israel in His next coming, more often than not we see them not understanding Jesus, disbelieving Him or failing to find enough faith to even acknowledge they knew Him. They are almost like Israel itself though - prone to lose faith, prone not to believe, prone to test God.
Yet if there is one disciple that the gospels are a little too silent about, it is Judas Iscariot. We know a little of his history, we know that for 30 silver pieces - enough for the Priests to buy a field to bury the poor (although I suspect the Priests could get ‘discount pricing’) - he betrayed Jesus’ location. We know he becomes guilty because of his betrayal.
But do we really get an insight into what he thinks? Not really.
So, after a success with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Coat, another story based on the Bible, this time from the Old Testament, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber were casting around for ideas for the next masterpiece. Bearing in mind that the world they were in then was much more ‘religious’ than today and that many people had learned (or been forced to learn) about the gospels in Sunday school and the like, their next choice of subject - the gospel from Judas’ perspective was quite profound and unsettling.
I am not going to comment on whether they should or should not have done this. It is done now. It has been and still is a best-selling musical. The actors playing Jesus for the most part are humble about the role and see themselves as actors playing the role or helping others learn something about the musical’s protagonist, Jesus Christ.
But the question I want to ask is, is the musical coherent with the gospels? Does it contradict the gospels? Does it give a perverted view of the gospels? If one only knew Jesus from this musical would it be the Jesus we know from the gospels or some other “Franken-Jesus”?
Before I do, though, I want you to think a little on this. Listen at least to the show’s beginning number “Heaven on Their Mind” and its third to last number “Jesus Christ Superstar” - its final number is John 19:41 a very beautiful, beautiful music only rendition of Gethsemane.
It would, of course, help if you read at least one of the Gospels; I would suggest maybe Matthew or Mark. The synoptics are going to be the most helpful here although by all means don’t let this advice stop you from reading John or even all four of them.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
But the chapter talks about the land, about Israel being given the land. We can assume that Israel will one day receive their land - the Lord does not lie - but then what? What are they to do in order to keep it, in order to be supported by it? The answer, Moses says, is to keep the Lord's will and His laws.
Yet today at church I was reminded that we listen and cling onto the laws about how we relate to each other but not so much about how we should relate to the land. The mainstream churches have not, yet, been a voice for the land but a voice for the people to exploit the land. One of the words I heard was 'dominate the land' - yes we can do that. But we can dominate and not destroy, we can have control of the land and not destroy it.
We can certainly do better than we are today.
I'm not advocating the mainstream churches become part of the Greens or the environmental movements; although I have seen that there are now theologians who bring the environment into the realm of theology. I don't actually believe we need to do this to save the earth, God's creation. What we need to do is remember who gave it to us.
God gave it to us.
And we should respect His earth as much as we are commanded to respect the little children who come to Him. Although I firmly believe it is quite impossible for us to destroy His creation, without His earth - the land in which we live - how can we perceive any children coming to His hands, where would have Jesus ministered?
We need to take heed of what the environmentalists are saying and I think together we can present a comprehensive, not just a 'scientific' reason for reducing our impact on the earth, on God's creation; and we need to do this sooner rather than later.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Scofield points out that the Hebrew name for this book, ‘Desert’, is more apt. It is because this book talks about Israel in the Desert and the Wilderness. There is little argument that this book features two ‘takings of a census’ but it is clear to me - at least - that the type of census is very different from what we might expect from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its general census. There are differing numbers and for now I’m happy to defer to other theologians or apologists to answer them; this isn’t the point of my post.
Whilst I knew very well the tribes were wandering lost in the desert, what struck me was the rhythm of the sacrifices. There were always a set number of tribes who did and they didn’t sacrifice wily-nilly. There were a set number of animals, a set number of grains and such to be given to the Priests to bless and to make holy. The priests were permitted to have some of the sacrifice but again in a consistent way.
And whilst Numbers appears to lean towards the Aaronic and Levite priests, they too were bound to offer some sacrifice to the Lord.
I haven’t finished contemplating this book or its words but I will commit to writing this: in the days before Jesus, the Lord God clearly delighted in the rhythmic aroma and offerings of sacrifice. If He did not, why command all the tribes to do so, so consistently and with such insistence? Scofield argues that these sacrifices and aromas were only just enough to soothe the Lord God before the sacrifice of His Son.
This raises to me a question: if I today raise incense to the Lord, will that remind Him that my sacrifice is so much less than the faith in my heart, but that the scent still is pleasing to his senses?
Monday, January 24, 2011
The choice of a bible is a very personal thing for any Christian. I grew up reading the King James Version. This was partially a linguistic choice. Few would dispute the majesty of its language. But it was also a choice rooted in tradition; although I had access to other versions including the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible and the New King James Version I never quite found that these sounded ‘right’ to me. Although I would, from time to time, consult the NKJV when the phrasing in the KJV was too obscure for me to understand, I always felt most at home with the KJV.
Now that I am a little older but not necessarily more mature, I’ve not lost my love for the King James Version. However, I am finding that its phrasing can be quite confusing and it is difficult to use to discuss the Bible with others. Fellow Christians in Australia are using it less and less and thus are not used to some of its idiosyncrasies, especially the distinction between the various tenses. Worse, I have experienced some non-believers claiming to win some argument by erroneously calling my views ‘archaic’ and ‘old-fashioned’. I might concede that some of my views fall into one or both of these categories but it’s not because of the Bible that I read.
As a simple example, let’s look at Matthew 5:15. The KJV has:
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (Matthew 5:15, KJV)
I have always understood a bushel as a weight for grain: a bushel of corn, a bushel of wheat. Or that it could stand for the actual grain. Clearly I would not put a candle underneath some dried out wheat or it will probably catch alight!
Here is what the NKJV has:
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand [sic], and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Matthew 5:15, NKJV)
Rendered this way is somewhat more understandable. Whilst I may not picture the right type of basket at least I know what object is talking about.
So, seeing that I have quoted from the NKJV you would be forgiven for assuming that I chose the NKJV as my current ‘favourite’ Bible. I did for a number of years use this version as my chosen Bible. It is, really, a laudable piece of work and I find nothing in particular wrong with it or inconsistent with the KJV. However, that also brought its downfall for me.
I found that the NKJV was too much like the KJV. When reading it I always have this niggling voice in my mind saying, “That’s not quite right. It should read like this.” Therefore after many, many years of faithful use I’ve decided to read another translation.
My current choice of Bible to read and study from is the New American Standard Bible, also known as the NASB. It is commonly touted to be the most literal translation to the extent where its first revision does sound a little stilted - the 1995 revision has, for me, cleared up the English enough to make it an easy enough Bible for me to read.
That said, for reading out aloud, the NKJV sounds less stilted or at least more familiar to my ears than the NASB and it is certainly my Bible of choice for doing so.