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Our Bottom Line is You! The Naivety of National

I haven't blogged on politics for a while. I have had all sorts of thoughts but it is National's latest slogan that has led me to break my silence. 
I see with interest that National has a new slogan: “our bottom line is you” (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12253263). Here is a brilliant example of the naivety of this National Party leadership.
First, it is naff! It is insipid. It is sickly. Get me a bucket. “Our bottom line is you”—what does that mean? It's kind of a reworking of “its all about you.” None of us can take that seriously because it is weak and puerile to the core.
Second, be real National! The bottom line is winning the next election. It is either getting over 50% of the votes that count to win. Or, getting a coalition partner and together getting over the line! There is no coalition partner. Hence, you are destined to wallow in the opposition for another round. Get on with making that happen.
Third, I suppose the bottom l…

Cycling and Cruciformity

In recent years, Emma and I have become cyclists joining NZ Cyclist (http://nz-cyclist.spruz.com/) to get fitter and make some new friends. The group is full of great guys and gals, real salt of the earth kiwis, all of varying abilities. Four or five times a week different groups career around the streets of the Shore and into the countryside. It is hard work but great for fitness and friendship. Aside from being uber-frustrated at the moment at being way too busy to get out often, we have fallen in love with cycling and the people we ride with.
When you join a group like this and get into group riding, you learn that there is a real art to cycling, including the idea of drafting. This is when you cycle very close to the rear wheel of the person in front of you, to a degree you get sucked along by those leading you. Drafting is highly advantageous as you use far less energy than the person on the front, although there is some gain for the lead rider as well (http://www.exploratorium…

Is Colossians 1:29 an Example of Hyperbole?

Paul says Colossians 1:23 that the gospel which the Colossians heard through Epaphras and which is spreading through the world (Col 1:6–7) has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven. Scholars deal with it in different ways. Hendriksen and Kistemaker understand by this that as the gospel has reached Rome, “it had actually invaded every large center of the then-known world” (Exposition, 85). This is patently incorrect as there were centers north, south, and to the east that were both known and a part of the world. Ernest Martin suggests that we should not push this statistically, but it speaks of the gospel’s universal application (Colossians, Philemon, 83), a view others hold to (e.g. Ash). Osborne considers that the gospel is being proclaimed in every part of the world and so there is hope for all of creation to be brought back into harmony with God (Verse by Verse, 50). Pao similarly sees here not hyperbole, but the universal scope of the gospel and “cosmic submission to God” (…

Considering Paul's Understanding of the Church as Family

When we talk about Paul’s view of the church, often we emphasize the ideas of “the body of Christ” and “the temple of the Spirit.” These ideas are to be sure very important to Paul. The body of Christ motif is found in passages focused on spiritual gifts whereby the community of believers who make up the church brings their diverse gifts together in unity in service of God (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12, 27; Eph 3:6; 4:12, cf. Col 3:15). The church is also considered by Paul to be the Temple of the Spirit meaning that the dwelling place of God on earth is believers and the people of the church as a community (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19).  In Ephesians 2:20–22, the church is founded on Christ, the apostles, and prophets, with all believers built into the one building. There is a shift from the idea of the Jerusalem Temple as the palace of God—we become this individually and corporately.

Yet, clearly, Paul’s primary understanding of church is the family of God. He uses the notion explicitly on occasion …

I've got nothing

It is two days since that harrowing moment when we realized we had lost the Cricket World Cup. Many NZers are still in grief. Ex-cricketers like myself are lost in a sea of deep anguish, tossed hither and thither by waves of anger, sorrow, pain, and turmoil. I was asked on Facebook to give hope. In effect, I can't give hope, because I've got nothing.

Yet, I suppose there are different ways to console ourselves.

1. Drink copious alcohol--helps in the short term, but bad for your skin.
2. Pray NZ votes for the legalization of dope and spend the next ten years stoned. Problem is, you might end up worse with paranoia. It would just lead to more conspiracy theories which will deepen our funk.
3. Take it out on others--make sure they too are not kiwis, or you may bite off more than you can chew, they may be angrier than you. Also, don't take it out on Ben Stokes, we know what he can do in a brawl.
4. Make up excuses like the umpires missed the overthrow moment should have been …

The Sign of the Cross: Why did we do away with it?

I was at a worship gathering recently and we took communion. I observed a woman take the emblems and then make the sign of the cross. I found it a beautiful and poignant moment as she in deep sincerity, honored God in this way.
It then took my mind to the myriad of times I have seen others do the same in different settings. In silence, a person using the right hand (because Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father) touches the forehead, the center of the chest (the heart), and the two shoulders saying: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=autaIzGDcy8).
It is used across a range of churches including the Orthodox, Catholic Churches, Anglicanism, and some Lutherans and Methodists. The idea is a very early one, found in Tertullian (De corona 3) who in the late second century says it was used on every journey, leaving the home, and at meals and bedtime (ISBE 1:287).  
As I thought on this…

You Give them Something to Eat

So often Christians passionate for evangelism downplay social justice. They see things like caring for the poor and other good works as secondary to telling someone the good news of Jesus. For a range of reasons, I find this unsatisfactory. Social engagement can never be limited to the words we speak. Sharing Christ is found in a holistic encounter where our attitudes and actions sit alongside and give meaning to the words we speak. If we speak without loving good works our words are dead. If we show love and never speak the gospel, no one is saved. The two are intertwined.
One of the verses that I find helpful in this regard is in the context of the feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6:30–44. The disciples have just come back from their first mission in which they proclaimed to people that they must repent of their sins, cast out demons, and healed the sick (Mark 6:12–13).
Then they return to Jesus (Mark 6:30). Jesus takes them by boat to a desolate place for a bit of r &…

Was Paul a Virgin?

It is almost universally held that Paul was a single man through his life and so a virgin who endorsed singleness and virginity in others. Students are usually very surprised when I tell them in class that the Apostle Paul was very possibly previously married. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, Paul was a Pharisee, and usually, a Pharisee was married. Barrett writes, “[u]nmarried rabbis were few, and marriage appears to have been obligatory for a Jewish man” (Barrett, 1 Corinthians, 161). Of course, he may have converted before he married, so this isn’t conclusive proof. Still, there are other factors.

A second is that the Greek of 1 Cor 7:8–9 could well indicate he was a widower. The passage reads in the ESV: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.” The Greek for unmarried is agamos. This term can mean unmarried in a general sense or “widower.”

Third, connected with the previous point, throughout 1 Cor 7:1–17 Paul neatly…

The So-Called Spiritual Gift of Celibacy

I remember a number of years ago doing a spiritual gifts test. One of the gifts on the list was celibacy. I had misgivings at the time but could not put my finger on why. I pondered what it was doing on the list. Now I know why. People put celibacy on the spiritual gift list because it is supposedly a spiritual gift alongside the sorts of gifts found in the more recognized spiritual gifts found in Rom 12; 1 Cor 12–14; and Eph 4. This is because Paul uses the term for spiritual gifts, charisma, in 1 Cor 7:7 of the state of marriage or singleness. Yet, to me, this is classically naïve biblical study. Just because charisma is found in this verse it does not follow that it is a “spiritual gift.” It is the gift of a state of being which comes through the providence of God, rather than something imparted by the Spirit upon conversion.
Paul does use charisma of spiritual gifts received by new believers by the Spirit poured into them (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 1:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30…

1 Corinthians 14:26 and some of its Implications

In 1 Cor 14:26, Paul addresses the church of Corinth. He uses “brothers,” but as is generally agreed in Pauline scholarship, the Greek for “brothers,” adelphoi, should be read as inclusive of the whole church. He urges the church when it comes together to bring something to share whether it be a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a message in other languages, and the translation or interpretation of what is spoken. Several things jump out to me as I read this passage.
First, the list is another spiritual gift list, another of the number that punctuates 1 Cor 12–14 including 1 Cor 12:8–10, 28–30; 13:1–3. We should consider these alongside the lists of Rom 12:4–8 and Eph 4:11. None of these are exhaustive meaning there are no doubt other gifts the Spirit gives. Yet, these lists provide some insight into the fantastic diversity of gifts that God gives.
Second, the previous point means that we should add music (a hymn) to our spiritual gift listings. Music has always been important to the Judeo…

Acts 1:1–11 and the Q Source

One of the greatest ongoing debates in Biblical studies is the debate about how to explain the common material between Matthew and Luke’s Gospel (see https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Q_Document/Expanded_contents_of_Q) .
Different theories are considered. Assuming Luke and Matthew both used Mark’s Gospel as a source, the most common explanations for the material common to Luke and Matthew are: Luke used MatthewMatthew used LukeMatthew and Luke used common oral traditions.Matthew and Luke used a separate undiscovered written source labeled Q, from the German Quelle, “Source.”Matthew and Luke used a combination of common oral traditions and Q (in this view, Q is much smaller).
My view is that 2. above is possible. I date Luke soon after the end of Acts, so sometime in the early-mid 60s when the two works were complete. I prefer a date for Matthew later, so it is possible Matthew used Luke. I could be wrong on this, and those who argue for Matthew earlier and Luke later creates the possibil…

Some thoughts on abortion reform

It won’t be long before New Zealand has revised abortion laws. Last year, three options for law reform were suggested in a briefing paper (https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/107941997/government-prepares-for-next-step-in-abortion-law-reform). Central to this is Andrew Little’s desire to make abortion a health issue rather than a criminal matter.
Currently, a woman must have the agreement of two certifying medical practitioners that the pregnancy would result if the woman’s physical or mental health is seriously threatened. Up to the 20th week, grounds include serious danger to life, physical health, mental health, incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental sub-normality, and fetal abnormality. Extremes of age and sexual violation are also possible factors that can be taken into account. After the 20th week, abortion approved by two doctors has these grounds: to save the life of the mother, to percent serious permanent injury to the physical or the mental health o…
The Cost of Revelation: Paul’s thorn in the flesh and Jacob’s Hip (2 Cor 12) Recently, I was considering Paul’s thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what it is of course. Ralph Martin in his 2014 revision of his Word Commentary on 2 Corinthians notes these possibilities.
1.Opponents (Chrysostom, Martin). 2.Sexual temptation (Medieval thinkers from Gregory the Great to Aquinas) 3.Spiritual temptation (Calvin, Luther, and other Reformers) 4.Agony that people reject the gospel (Menoud) 5.Suffering from his rejection as an apostle (McCant) 6.A pain in the ear or head (Tertullian, Jerome, Pelagius) 7.An eye-condition (commonly, e.g. Witherington) 8.Epilepsy (Lightfoot) 9.Malaria (Ramsay) 10.Nervous disorder (Clavier) 11.Defective speech (Clark, Barrett)
In my view, as it is referred to as a weakness or illness (astheneia) in v. 9, I suspect it is not something external but some physical or psychological hindrance. Hence, I have grouped the possibilities 6–11 together. It may be linked to the criticism of…