Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reasons Queenslanders stayed Presbyterian

Like Kamal, I'll be presenting at the combined Presbyterian colleges' conference, Descendi Studio next week. I think I'll be on Wednesday. However, I must confess I'm not presenting on Calvin. Neither am I presenting on my project from last year looking at Doctrines of Scripture in Islam and Evangelicalism.

Rather, I'll be looking at why Queensland Presbyterians who chose to remain presbyterian did so during the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia (ie. back in the '70's). It was an essay I did for Church history last year and probably of interest to many attending the conference.

What will it be about? It doesn't claim to be comprehensive, but I question some claims I found about that people remained Presbyterian solely (yes, some historians went that far) because of their cultural backgrounds. Instead, I'll be suggesting that at least in Queensland, doctrinal issues—especially the question of Scripture—were significant to many who chose to "continue Presbyterian".

Why do I care? Well, I'm not historically Presbyterian, but I'm training to work with them. So I wanted to know about a defining event in the life of this denomination in recent years. I think it's impact is still felt both practically (eg. why some regions don't have churches, why there's a sudden need for ministers in the denomination) and theologically (eg. why has Queensland Presbyterianism been so theologically conservative post-union, when might we be seen as betraying what people at that time were fighting for, when are we not). I want be unpacking all that in my presentation, but I hope that's what I started to learn last year doing the research.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The faith of evolution

Do we treat the incarnation as CGI?

Some interesting thoughts suggesting that we undermine the comfort of the incarnation when we emphasise the its miraculous nature. It's a salutary reminder. The great news is that God can be approached by us in Christ, not that the unknowable God has come even closer. Yet, is there any real comfort is John's 'symbolic portrait of Jesus' is little more than a 'full blow[n] CGI presentation' of the gospel? There is a danger that '[b]y fixating on the imagery, the underlying plot is lost.'

But what if the plot itself is supposed to show that 'God [...] fills the gap where human actors could not possibly succeed'? What if the only way God could become as approachable as John portrays was for God to come in the flesh and die for our sins? In that case, we're not dealing with CGI. This is old school filmatography where someone needs to get in the car and drive through the flaming building. And it's the Bruce Lee/Jacky Chan school of acting where there are no stunt doubles.

It's true we can learn a lot about the human condition from The X-men. But the historical factuality of Schindlers List should be a lot more sobering.

The parables show Jesus looked to the future

I love Singing in the Reign. These Catholic scholars make such great observations, particularly pointing to strong evidence against some sort of deep divide between the teaching of Jesus and the community of believers that formed after his death (and resurrection).

Their most recent post points to Jesus' parables as evidence that he was expecting a delayed realisation of God's Kingdom, not an immanent one as often promoted in the footsteps of Schweizer.

The other reason I'm keen about the post is because I've always wanted to refer to a work by Snodgrass (apparently an excellent consideration of the importance of Jesus' parables). I just love that name.

Concerning moves in the international rights debate

According to Christopher Hitchens, some legislation is before the UN that is seeking to criminalise criticism of religions (particularly Islam) by suggesting that ideas, not just individuals, have rights. It's a worrying prospect.