Thursday, October 23, 2008
Exposure. Although modern Christians often openly challenge and rebuke pagan neighbours, it turns out that this theme is quite rare in the NT:
What in 1 Cor. 5:10-12 suggests that such an approach is not the first choice for the Christian?
But there are hints that such an approach is sometimes appropriate. Perhaps the prophetic ‘watchman’ of Ezek. chs. 3:16-19 & 33:1-9 is an OT ‘precursor’ of this approach.
A clear NT instance of the approach might be Ephesians 5:11-12: ‘exposing the deeds of darkness’.
‘The life of praise’ will sometimes include moments of exposure. Even the moment of exposure will be a ‘gospel-shaped’ word of some sort.
But – what would be examples of ‘exposure’?
Why would you choose ‘exposure’ over ‘détente’ or ‘subversion’?
How can exposure of dark deeds be done in such a way as to remain an expression of the life of praise?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Separation. 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1 speaks of entirely ‘exiting the game’—Scripture’s ‘monastic’ option. The passage is tricky:
- Firstly, the referent is unclear (although it is probably false teaching from which the Corinthians are to separate).
- Secondly, it is metaphorical, so not geographical in the first instance (remembering that 1 Cor. 5:10 & 12 remind us that total separation is impossible and not very desirable).
But geographic forms of this separation might be the best format for the ‘life of praise’ e.g. dark ages monastic communities that operated as islands of the gospel, taught, and lived according to ‘rules’ shaped by the gospel. Such separate Christian communities take the modern form of hospices for the terminally ill, or homes for pregnant women who wish to keep their children.
How should Christians decide when to ‘separate’?
What are other forms of separation?
How long should separation be in effect?
Would Christians ever re-enter society after separating, e.g. from systems of private schooling?
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
‘Subversion’ is usually understood to be a negative force in society. But here, we use the word to describe a way of living that is off-balancing, unexpected, and different, so as either to delight pagan neighbours or leave them uneasy yet curious. ·
- Consider the salty speech of off-balancing grace (Col. 4:5-6). How does this kind of speech by Christian subversives subtly undermine the graceless presuppositions of pagan neighbours? Have you seen any examples of this? ·
- Consider the gentle joy of hopefulness (1 Pet. 3:15-16). How does this kind of speech by Christian subversives subtly undermine the graceless presuppositions of pagan neighbours? Have you seen any examples of this? Paul and Peter seem to have been guided by what Jesus said in Matt. 5:1-16. Jesus,
- Paul and Peter want us to learn how to create doubt in hopeless pagan futility, by lives (and speech) of praise.
A philosopher called Wittgenstein once talked about how ‘hearing what is true won’t help us’ unless we ‘uncover the source of the error.’ ‘We must begin with the mistake and transform it into what is true,’ he said; therefore people ‘must plunge again and again in the water of doubt’ if they are to ‘find the road from error to truth’. ·
- When Christians are joyful, others begin to doubt their despair ·
- When Christians are graceful, others begin to doubt their systems of merit
- When Christians are humble, others begin to doubt vanity and pride.
Think of a pressing social problem in Australia that you can think of. What words of joy and grace might destabilise, unnerve, and offer unanticipated solutions?
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I know that some reading this blog might think that is an odd thing to explore but for the Christian it can be a very difficult issue. When or when not to compromise, how to show love, when to say "YES"? How to say I disagree! It's difficult because most of the time, like most people, Christians want to be liked, to get on with people. Christians don't want to be known as kill-joy's or to sound like ignorant fundamentalists.
At the same time however, they know following Jesus means a commitment to living with his values and being shaped by his words. That simply means there is substance to a Christians belief and this substance shapes responses.
Andrew has generously given me permission to explore some of his thoughts on this blog. The exploration is not meant to be exhaustive but identifies four responses.
Christian ethics does not ask “‘What is good and bad or what makes life worthwhile and sustaining?’ but ‘What is the life of praise in a broken world all about?’ [Brock]
Christians have very great latitude for expressing their life of praise. The NT presents a very practical range of responses to the wider non-Christian social environment. These can act as a useful ‘toolkit’ for imagining what ‘the life of praise’ might look like.
Détente. The Bible’s ‘default’ posture for Christians in relation to pagan neighbours seems to be détente. (The word refers to a relaxed friendliness in relationships that could otherwise be strained.)
Luther once said said: ‘A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.’ Because Christ is lord, sometimes we willingly cooperate.
- In the OT, something like détente is what Jeremiah exhorts the Babylonian exiles to (Jeremiah 29:7).
- The situation between the slave and the master is the most obvious case of détente, where the slave wholeheartedly gives himself to the plans and purposes of the masters, even though he knows that his real Lord is Christ (Eph. 6:5f, Col. 3:22). This new knowledge, that the master is really his brother (or at least his equal), and that he really serves the Lord, vastly ‘empowers’ the slave (and far more than institutional change).
- In 1 Pet. 2:13, Peter exhorts his readers to submit to (literally) ‘every human creation’: what applies to slave-masters also applies to emperors!
- Christians are uncontroversially able to engage in détente, even with people above them who have different plans and purposes than those of Christ. Hence Romans 12:17 ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’
Why is the Bible so relaxed about this détente? Why is this not a recipe for compromise? …