Before the printing press, few people had a Bible of their own. It was a shared book. People read together. The Old Testament was the Jewish community’s story. New Testament letters were for churches. The Gospels were communal memories, reflected in the way the Synoptics use identical phrases to tell Jesus’ story.
Then the printing press gave us each a Bible of our own. Reading it as a private book, we fragmented into 40,000+ denominations. There are people in our culture who promote the notion that a text can mean whatever a reader wants (reader-response theory).
Today we tend to read the Bible alone. I bring the Bible into my private world, searching for spiritual guidance for my life. I identify each character with my struggles, glossing over the bigger story of the faithful Father who reigns across the families and generations. Almost imperceptibly, I am the centre of my universe.
Continue reading “Reading together”
Can you use cartoons in an academic paper? Ann Fink did. Her article is a case study I may use in ethics class.
She asks how to treat this police officer. During Algeria’s War of Independence, he presents to Dr Frantz Fanon (psychiatrist) suffering PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) as a result of his work, which involves torture. He’s not coping, and his home life is becoming increasingly violent.
The patient asks Fanon “to help him torture … with a total peace of mind.” Is it possible to treat the inspector in a meaningful way?
How would you advise the doctor?
Continue reading “Society on the couch”
How do we respond to the news that God unites us as his family?
The gospel is the good news that God has restored peace to all the peoples of the earth through his anointed ruler (Ephesians 2). So what’s our response to this good news?
What people often do with the gospel today doesn’t match the response in Ephesians 3.
- Evangelicals try to convince individuals they’re sinners and get them saved.
- Justice warriors name and shame the regimes for their sins (systemic oppression).
But Paul doesn’t stand up to condemn individuals or regimes: Continue reading “God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)”
What does this mean to you?
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9 NIV).
It says I must resist the temptations that suck me in, so I don’t fall into sin, right? That’s what most of us hear, but that’s not what Paul said at all. It’s actually about loving people, not individual struggle.
Continue reading “Genuine love”
Working with the people who want the best for their community — that’s how Jesus’ kingdom vision works.
Open Matthew 10:9-15.
How did Jesus expect to run a kingdom? They’re expensive! Government in Australia costs us $450 billion dollars a year — $50 for every man, woman, and child, every day.
It’s always been like that. When Israel first asked for a king, Samuel warned them how taxing human rulers would be:
1 Samuel 8:11–17 (ESV)
11 These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons … 13 He will take your daughters … 14 He will take … 15 He will take … 16 He will take … 17 He will take … and you shall be his slaves.
David’s son Solomon charged taxes and required his citizens to work to build the temple in Jerusalem. He built stables and garrisons and public works, and a harem and wealth for himself. After 7 years of temple construction, he required the work teams to build him a palace — for the next 13 years! So heavy was Solomon’s yoke that it split the kingdom when he died (1 Kings 12:4, 11).
If Jesus was restoring the kingdom, how could he fund it? He’s just appointed his first government officials — twelve kingdom emissaries — but how could he fund them? You’re not going to believe what he did: he sent them out with no money, to fend for themselves!
Put yourself in their shoes: Continue reading “A grassroots kingdom (Matthew 10:9-15)”