Thursday, May 29, 2008

Modernity dead?

And just when you thought you could put modernity behind you....

The news of modernity's death has been greatly exaggerated. The Enlightenment project is alive and well, dominating Europe and increasingly North America, particularly in the political drive to carve out "the secular"--a zone decontaminated of the prejudices of determinate religious influence. In Europe, this secularizing project has been translated, ironically but not unsurprisingly, into a religious project with increasing numbers of devotees of "secular transcendence"--all the while marginalizing forms of determinate religious confessions as "dogmatic." In the United States, the march of the secular finds its expression in the persistent project to neutralize the public sphere, hoping to keep this pristine space unpolluted by the prejudices of concrete religious faith. The religious response to this has been the confused "Constantinian" project of the Religious Right, which has sought to colonize the public and political spheres by Christian morality (or the morality supposedly disclosed by "natural law").

James K.A. Smith

Introducing Radical Orthodoxy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No single gospel message?

If I had to put this [the Gospel] outline in a single statement, I might do it like this: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.

In an article in the Leadership Journal online, Tim Keller writes that while there may only be one Gospel message (which he's tried to put into a single statement form above), there are many forms of the message. After discussing the different 'forms' and the possibility of there being more than the ones he mentions, he goes on to talk about preaching the Gospel in different ways, as follows:
1. I don't put all the gospel points into any one gospel presentation.
2. I use both a gospel for the "circumcised" and for the "uncircumcised."
3. I use both a "kingdom" and an "eternal life" gospel.
4. I use them all and let each group overhear me preaching to the others.

Is God a Delusion?

Next month will see a debate between NZ rationialist, Bill Cooke, and William Lane Craig, the well-known Christian apologist. Craig is also speaking at other venues during his fortnight in New Zealand (8th June to the 21st).
The debate takes place on the 19th June in the Regent Theatre on Broadway, Palmerston North. Start time is
Cooke is a professor at the Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, with a PhD from Victoria University. He's the Vice President, and National Spokesperson, of the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists.
Craig has PhDs in Philosophy and New Testament Studies. He's written numerous books, and speaks around the world on the reasonableness of the Christian faith, communicating complex issues in an accessible way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Leading with a Limp

One of the books that Steve Graham focused on in his talks to the South Island Pastors' Conference was Dan Allender's book, Leading with a Limp, which came out in 2006. The book looks at the fact that many leaders have suffered, or need to suffer, brokenness, before they can lead others: 'we achieve leadership by falling off our throne.'
The book deals with five areas: crisis, complexity, betrayal, loneliness and weariness. All of which should sound familiar to most leaders!
The issue is how we deal with these areas, whether with a typically ineffective response or by finding options to bring about an effective solution. In each case Allender shows that a leader can either fall into an ineffective area, or tip over into one that leads to a positive outcome. For example, with the area of crisis, the leader can either drop into cowardice, or into courage. With the latter he can then move on into confidence in God that whatever he or she is doing it no longer needs to impress others.
That last paragraph doesn't by any means do justice to the way Allender treats the topic (or the way Steve re-presented it), but it may just give you a taster.
Here are some comments about the book:
“There are good books on leadership, but this one is profound. It is better than a ‘how to do it’ book; this is a ‘how to be it’ book for leaders. Dan Allender offers serious wisdom rather than simple platitudes.”
–Mark Sanborn
“After reading this book, the first two words out of my mouth were ‘At last!’ Amid a deluge of spiritual gifts inventories, at last there is someone who understands how God’s strength is made perfect in our imperfections. At last someone has brought spiritual strengths and spiritual weaknesses into conversation. For Dan Allender, the limp is a limpid way of walking that leads into the very presence of God.”
–Leonard Sweet
Leading with a Limp is not your basic, cafeteria-brand manual on how to ‘do’ leadership. It is a call to openly face your shortcomings as a leader. Dan Allender reminds us that our greatest asset as leaders is not our competence but the courage to name and deal with our frailties and imperfections.”
–Dr. Crawford W. Loritts, Jr

Steve Graham at Mosgiel

The South Island Pastors' Conference took place last week in Mosgiel, at the East Taieri Presbyterian Church. The main speaker was Steve Graham, the Dean of the Bible College in Christchurch.
I'll be mentioning other books and articles Steve spoke about, but let's start with one that's available on the Net. It's called Teaching a Calvinist to Dance. A couple of quotes:
It can be a little intimidating in a Reformed context to admit that one is Pentecostal. It's a bit like being at the ballet and letting it slip that you're partial to NASCAR and country music. Both claims tend to clear a room. And yet I happily define myself as a Reformed charismatic, a Pentecostal Calvinist.
I started a master's degree in philosophical theology at the Institute for Christian Studies, a graduate school in the Dutch Reformed tradition at the University of Toronto. So my week looked a bit odd: Monday to Friday I was immersed in the intellectual resources of the Reformed tradition, diving into the works of Calvin, Kuyper, and Dooyeweerd.

Steve talked about brokenness in leadership too, but perhaps more of his focus was on the need for Presbyterians to work more in the middle area of the supernatural-this-worldly, in other words, not being content to live just in the natural, with the supernatural as something for the future next world, but to live with a sense of the supernatural in our everyday lives. (This is sometimes called the Flaw of the Excluded Middle.)

We'll look at these other areas further in other posts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Henri Nouwen

Mysticism and revolution are two aspects of the same attempt to bring about radical change. No mystics can prevent themselves from becoming social critics, since in self-reflection they will discover the roots of a sick society. Similarly, no revolutionaries can avoid facing their own human condition, since in the midst of their struggle for a new world they will find that they are also fighting their own reactionary fears and false ambitions… The appearance of Jesus in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross. — Henri Nouwen, in The Wounded Healer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A bunch of various quotes

Sometimes the quotes come thick and fast. Here are two that arrived in my email box this morning, and another that's a quote from an essay I mentioned a day or so ago.

Nothing is so important as human life, as the human person. Above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed... Jesus says that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths are beyond all politics: They touch the very heart of God.

- Oscar Romero
March 16, 1980

Humans possess an innate affinity for narrative. Narrative surrounds us, and something about narrative movement captivates the hearts of human beings. Why is this? Christians can look to scripture to uncover a reason for this affinity: storytelling resides in the heart of God. Genesis 1:26 says that man is created in the image of God, and God has an affinity for storytelling. How are we certain of this? Jesus Christ, God incarnate, presented truth after truth during his earthly ministry in story form. At several points, Jesus’ disciples question this practice. Matthew 13:13 relays Jesus’ answer: “This is why I speak in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand.…’” Jesus answers their question with an invitation. He invites the disciples to explore his stories, to question them, to examine them, to break through their blindness and discover the truth.

Bill Boerman-Cornell and Annette Witte
"Neither Minnie Mouse nor Wonder Woman" in catapult magazine

The Bible is not actually older than church tradition. The writings of the first fathers precede the uniting of the biblical books in one volume as we have it today (the first list of the books of the Old and New Testaments that matches our own Bibles comes from St. Athanasius in 367, though the key books were in place long before). St. Clement of Alexandria speaks of "Scripture" simply as what we think of as the Old Testament, which for him demonstrably sets forth Christ without ambiguity! Even after the formation of the biblical canon, tradition still functioned as a hermeneutical rule: "an approach for interpreting the Bible by investigating and following the ancient consensus of the fathers."

Not that that consensus is always clear. In fact, learning to read like the fathers should make our reading of the Bible a good deal more difficult. The fathers often affirm an "infallible Bible," music to the ears of today's evangelicals. But they also celebrated "points of obscurity or even contradiction" in the Bible—the very things many superficial readers today would prefer to ignore or iron out. The letter of Scripture is plain enough for all readers. But God has intentionally placed obscurities in the Bible as opportunities for spiritual growth for its readers: "because he only wants to open [the Scriptures] up to those who are prepared to look" for God's mysteries, as D H Williams quotes St. Augustine.

From Reading with the Saints, The art of biblical Jason Byassee

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reaching your neighbour - a slightly different approach

You'll probably think this is just crass advertising (on the part of NESCAFÉ, in this case), but it's worth pointing it out anyway. (And I'm not being paid to do it.)

NESCAFÉ have come up with an idea called NESCAFÉ TogetherNES™ (yup, they've even trademarked it). As they say on their site, the idea was born in conversation 'over a cup of NESCAFÉ coffee. When you share a moment with the people who live around you, it’s clear that knowing your neighbours adds warmth and richness to life, every day. That’s why we’re looking for people with bright ideas on how they could help build their neighbourhood’s sense of community – then we can get involved too and help make it happen. Naturally, the first step is to share your idea with us.'

There's a great deal more about it on their site, but what seems of interest to us is that this idea is perfectly adaptable to the church community.

Want to find ways to reach out to your neighbours? Start with anyone of the ideas already on the site or come up with some of your own. Mission starts with reaching out.

Shaping Spiritual Leaders

A book from the Alban Institute:
Shaping Spiritual Leaders: Supervision and Formation in Congregation, by Abigail Johnson.

Supervision—the shaping of spiritual leaders—occurs formally and informally in many aspects of congregational life. Every year, thousands of pastors supervise field education students and interns; staff members and lay leaders often supervise committee members or other staff; clergy and lay leaders supervise each other as a way to offer support and establish accountability. While supervision enhances the work of all concerned, it is rarely explicitly addressed in congregations.

For over fifteen years, Abigail Johnson has supervised and trained others to supervise candidates for ordination within the United Church of Canada. Recognizing that supervision is as important in the formation of lay leaders as in the life of candidates for ordination, she has developed this book to guide all who supervise others in a congregation. Johnson views supervision as a ministry and shows how leaders can use their own innate gifts to enhance their supervision skills. By shaping the supervision relationship based on the gifts of the people involved as well as the context in which the relationship occurs, supervision can become an opportunity for mutual growth and learning that strengthens all other areas of ministry.

This book provides a hands-on approach to supervision, addressing key areas such as identifying a learning focus, covenanting, managing conflict, understanding and using power and authority, offering and receiving feedback and evaluation, and celebrating and ending the supervisory relationship.

Supervisors who pay attention to these and other key areas will help those they supervise develop their gifts for ministry in all forms.

Published by Alban Institue, 2007.

Reading the Bible

Because [the Bible is] a story, the Spirit who is its presiding author and editor is free to use all the devices available to any storyteller.... The deepest difficulty with literalism is that it fails to see the principal device the Spirit uses to weave all those elements into a single story. All that wildly various wet-wash is hung on a paradoxical clothesline of imagery, not on a string of uniform propositional truths. The Bible is held together by icons, by word-pictures like Light, Word, Water, Marriage, the Garden, the Tree, the Blood of Abel, the Paschal Lamb, the Blood on the Doorposts, the Rock in the Wilderness, the Bread from Heaven, and finally the City, both as the historical Jerusalem in the Old Testament and as the destiny of the world in the book of Revelation. It's these icons, these sacraments of the real presence of the Word himself, that make it a whole.

Robert Farrar Capon

The Fingerprints of God

Plus, for a (reasonably) lengthy essay on the way the early Fathers and later theologians looked at reading the Bible, check out Jason Byassee's essay-review "Reading with the Saints," on the art of biblical interpretation. He not only discusses the issues, but looks at several worthwhile books on the subject.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How NZ fell prey to the demon P

In just five years, the drug P has made big inroads into New Zealand society. In an article that originally appeared in the Christchurch Press, on 12th April, 2008, John McCrone investigates the power of methamphetamine; sums up the issues relating to the use of P in NZ (and Australia); compares with other drugs, alcohol; shows its effects on NZ society – not just youth, but some older people. Shows how wide-spread its use is, and looks at whether it has plateaued as a drug of choice.

This is an article that all youth group leaders (as well as ministers) should read.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cheryl Lawrie and tables

Cheryl Lawrie, who is the project worker on an alternative worship project in the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, writes a blog called hold....this space. She's posted an interesting thought in progress on the subject of whether we invite people to 'our' table, or go and sit at 'theirs.' I hope she won't mind me pretty much quoting it in full:

We were talking this morning in a breakfast meeting about alternative communities - why the ongoing regular community stuff doesn’t seem to fit too easily into what we’re doing in this project… and why what we’re doing fits awkwardly into the church… this is where the conversation went… [it’s a thought in progress, bear that in mind!]

Most conversations about new forms of church or christian community are about rethinking the table at which the disciples sit. True confession… this project doesn’t emerge from any interest in that table, or even really in the disciples. i think the really interesting stuff of the gospels is the other stories - the tables Jesus went to where the disciples weren’t invited, or where they were so absent no-one thought to mention their presence - the afternoons at Mary and Martha’s, the nameless person’s house where Jesus met the syro-phonoecian woman, dinner at Levi’s house, dinner with Peter’s mother, the ‘water into wine’ wedding table… i think they’re the fun tables.

Interestingly, there’s not a lot of evidence in the gospels that the people around those tables wanted a seat at the disciples’ table - the main event, as such. Which makes it interesting, then, that most conversation about inclusion [and about new forms of Christian community] involves making sure there’s space for everyone at the disciples’ table - the presupposition being that there is only the one table around which everyone should sit. It gives those around the table an enormous amount of power. Perhaps that’s a myth perpetuated by them – because we have been taught to look at things from the disciples’ perspective we think there’s only one table - but the disciples were never as good as Jesus at recognising the other tables.

Perhaps another way of understanding inclusion and generosity is recognising that Jesus doesn’t sit at just one table, and that the disciples don’t host the other tables, or get to decide what happens there. Often they don’t even get invited. Those other tables are out of their control… and will mostly exist out of their line of vision.

If that’s the case, the ultimate act of inclusion for Christian communities is to encourage the possibility there might be other tables [fun tables, with good food - just as good as the church’s table] where God might just turn up, because the story of God is not about inclusion into the Church’s table, but inclusion into a story of life. Because as we know, you don’t have to be a disciple for god to seek you out, and just because you’re a disciple doesn’t mean you get the very best of who God is, and turning into a disciple isn’t the anticipated, or even desired, outcome of every encounter with the story of life…

Which is why we don’t believe that every act of worship, every sacred space should emanate from, or be directed back towards the church’s table. And why we have to look much broader than the disciples for our models of community.

There's also an interesting article (with a picture of Cheryl Lawrie) here. It's entitled Unorthodox media carry message of Holy Week, and first appeard in the Melbourne Age.


Neoleader suggests we should prioritize 'MAKING DISCIPLES' above 'GROWING HEALTHY CHURCHES'.

I've included the headings to the post here - check out his comments on the blog.

> Otherwise there might be a lot of people who never come to faith.

> Otherwise I might be tempted to do what is best for the church, rather than the person.

> Otherwise I might spend all my time celebrating the things that make our church healthier, rather than the stuff that is happening outside the church.

> Otherwise I might try and convince all our Christians to serve inside the church, and give 10% of their money to the church.

> Otherwise I will do whatever I can to make our church healthy and growing, even if it is sick and dying.

There'll be follow-up discussions on:


We should consider them both to be equally important.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Rural Church

The Canadian Rural Church Network's latest newsletter encourages people in rural communities to be reslient and think laterally. From a section entitled RAVEing Rural, comes the following:

There is a virtual riot of lively innovation and adaptation welling up in the rural United Church. In 2007, the United Church solicited workshop proposals for an event called "More Franchises than Tim Hortons: Vital Ministry in the Canadian Context". The workshop proposals from rural leaders reveal something of the face of the 'RAVEing Rural' church. [Tim Hortons might be thought of as the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks.)

Many rural congregations are finding life through new forms of congregational partnership and innovative organizational structures. One group of 4 congregations in Northern Ontario is experimenting with a "Multi-site Congregation" model. This is not a multi-point pastoral charge, but seeks close cooperation between participating congregations with one governance body that doesn't repeat committees. It includes an organic structure, which allows for grafting on or removing existing communities as needed without changing the congregational structure.

Another congregation was experiencing the tension of a massive influx of ex-urban households in their community. They turned this into a ministry with the community by hosting discussions on what it means to be a 'new rural' context bringing healing to both church and village.

Some congregations are using reports of demographic and psychographic marketing style data to learn more about themselves, and build relationships with those outside the church. Other congregations are embracing lament as a biblical spiritual practice and are releasing energy for a new future, discovering that all change involves loss, so to change well means to grieve well.

None of this is a surprise really, since resilience and adaptability have always been the way rural communities have thrived.

Chinese Good Samaritan

An article appeared in the Otago Daily Times World Focus last Monday about a man who spends a good deal of his free time stopping people from committing suicide on the Nanjing Bridge, which flows over the Yangtze River. So far he has managed to stop some 144 people from jumping to their deaths.

The article says the man's motivation is the feeling of guilt he was left with after an older man who had encouraged him when he was down and out subsequently committed suicide because of troubles he hadn't been able to share.

The full article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and can be accessed here.

It's well worth reading for an example of how God works to save lives by a modern day Samaritan, who appears to have no Christian motivation.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Since 2006, several groups of people from around New Zealand have been developing a new style of community group which aims to inspire and support a greater citizen engagement on social, economic and environmental issues.

Some of these groups have taken the name ChangeMakers ... and have been following a "5-10-5-10" framework of active citizenship.

5 - spend 5% of your time on active citizenship tasks

10 - do ten actions in the next year on your personal passion in citizenship action

5 - spend 5% of your income directly supporting citizenship action that inspires you

10 - join with ten other people to create a learning community to support each other’s work for change

Sounds like an idea that many Christian groups/churches could take up.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Good old ecuminism!

There's nothing new under the sun, as they say, and what you think it is a good idea is often pre-empted by someone with a similarly good idea. Nevertheless it was still good to come across the NZ Methodist Church's blog with a very similar name: Mission:Resourcing. It treats the topic of Mission Resourcing in a slightly different way to us, but the best part about it is that they too are being missional. The more the merrier.

The reason I discovered their blog was that they were advertising Lynne Taylor's seminars on using data from the 2006 Census to give pictures of the community in which parishes work. Check out the details here.
Lynne actually works for the Baptists, and is based in Christchurch. She works part-time doing statistics and logistics.
Our office has done a bunch of similar work, and very shortly the Presbytery Stats (which were sent out on DVD to all the Presbyteries early this year) will be available on the Presbyterian website.

A few quotes

A few quotes culled from Alec Guinness' A Commonplace Book

Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth.
Benjamin Disraeli

The incommunicable part of us is the pasture of God
Teilhard de Chardin

I neither suffer myself, nor other fools, gladly.
Alec Guinness

To believe in God is not a decision that we can make. All we can do is decide not to give our love to false gods.
Simone Weil

When growth is unsustainable

In a recent article in NZ Management, Sir John Whitmore talks about the possibility/rpobability that the way we do business is going to change radically.
Two paragraphs from the article. You can view the whole article here.

The ethos currently driving business is not sustainable and business leaders have to stop acting like adolescents in denial. That's the unequivocal message from world-renowned sporting and business coach Sir John Whitmore. "I would say that any leader who still believes in the holy grail of growth is irresponsible. They're living in a myth - living in the past," he says.

Although he acknowledges that consumerism is to some extent the lifeblood of capitalism, Whitmore describes it as an illness. "To me it is adolescent behaviour and I think that business in the way it is currently structured is quite tribal, very competitive. And in the state of the world at the moment what we need is more collaboration."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Jonny Baker, (who has moments of writing entirely in lower case) noted:

one of the points that i found interesting in robert wuthnow's book after the baby boomers: how twenty and thirty-somethings are shaping the future of american religion was that young adults have an extended period before getting married and having children (if they do). this means that there can often be a 10 year period of extended young adulthood. church attendance in this age group has been in decline, but the most interesting part about that is that the young adults who are attending church tend to be married with kids - church somehow is appealing to and catering for families better than single people. so this extension of young adulthood compounds the decline.

The single word that best describes young adults approach to religion and spirituality - indeed life - is tinkering. A tinkerer puts together a life from whatever skills, ideas and resources that are readily at hand... Tinkerers are the most resourceful people in any era. If specialized skills are required they have them. When they need help from experts they seek it. But they do not rely on one way of doing things. Their approach to life is practical. They get things done and usually this happens by improvising by piecing together an idea from here, a skill from there and a contact from somewhere else.

Like the farmer rummaging through the junk pile for makeshift parts the spiritual tinkerer is able to sift through a veritable scrap heap of ideas and practices from childhood, from religious organisations, classes, conversations with friends, books, magazines, television programmes and web sites. The tinkerer is free to engage in this kind of rummaging...

Lars and the Real Girl

The following 'conversation' comes from Christianity Today's February movie e-letter.

"Seen any good movies lately?"

"Yeah. There's this one movie that is a wonderful, beautiful picture of the body of Christ, of the power of unconditional love, forbearance, and grace."

"Sounds great. What's it called?"

"Lars and the Real Girl."

"What's it about?"

"Well"—gulp—"it's about a sweet young man named Lars who has some, um, mental health issues. He's kind of strange, and a bit lonely. He goes online and"—gulp—"orders a life-size, inflatable sex doll, which he introduces as his girlfriend Bianca. And ..."

At this point, my listener's eyebrows shoot up, and he or she might take a step backward while giving me a look like I'm out of my mind. Can you say, Awkward?

But it's true. Lars and the Real Girl really IS a wonderfully redeeming film—and Lars' "relationship" with Bianca is quite chaste. It truly is a heartwarming portrait of the church in action, as believers in the local congregation reach out to Lars and love him right through his challenges.

At CT Movies, we liked it so much that we named it one of our Ten Most Redeeming Films of 2007. It's an eclectic list, including films with stories about everything from monks, kites, unwanted pregnancies, a 19th century abolitionist, and an animated rat who might just be the finest chef in all of France.

For a more homegrown and more recent comment on the same movie, check out this post.

Left Behind: How Social and Income Inequalities Damage New Zealand Children

Just yesterday I received my copy of the report: Left Behind: How Social and Income Inequalities Damage New Zealand Children. It's published by the Child Poverty Action Group.
Columinst Tapu Misa writes about the report in her most recent column in the NZ Herald. If you haven't already read about this report, or have put your thoughts to it to one side, check out her article. It provides a good readable introduction to what the report has to say, and will not only encourage you to get a copy, but also to start thinking about what can my church do to change things?

The Christian Church in New Zealand should find this report disturbing.

Rick Warren on listening to God

Make listening to God a habit of your life. Jesus did. Prayer was a regular part of his life. The Bible tells us in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

If Jesus needed to get alone and listen to God, don’t you think that you need to? You need quiet times to reflect, renew, and recharge. You need time to just get alone, be quiet, and listen to God.

Originally found here

Numbers and Growth

Duncan Brown writes:

I recently met with a significant leader and pioneer of one of the world's most significant Christian humanitarian organisations. He is sought after globally as a speaker and mentor. As he reflected on the many organisations and leaders he connected with, he was encouraged that they were more intentional about their planning. But he was less glowing about what they were planning towards.

What was worrying this leader was the fact that for many ministries, success took only one shape - numbers and growth. Except for the occasional reference to Christ, there was often little to distinguish the strategic intent of a Christian ministry from a corporation. Numbers and growth are important kingdom metrics but the role of Christian leaders is to search God for the often intangible signposts of success.

Some comments on the latest Grand Theft Auto

Chris Baker writes at
As you'd probably expect from the reputation of the series, "Grand Theft Auto IV" includes--let's quickly consult the label--blood, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs and alcohol. Yes, concerned teenage boys of America, if your parents are irresponsible enough to let you get your hands on this, you can still kill and maim and plunder and [deleted] until your heart is full. But there's a difference this time: The violence is no longer cartoonish. Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He'll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety. After just scratching the surface of the game--I played for part of a day; it could take 60 hours to complete the whole thing--I felt unnerved. What makes "Grand Theft Auto IV" so compelling is that, unlike so many video games, it made me reflect on all of the disturbing things I had done.

Albert Mohler's Blog:
In some sense, we are what we play. This is not to say that every young male playing "Grand Theft Auto" is now or will become a violent sexual predator who steals cars. That is clearly not the case. But it is to say that these players are filling their minds with these images and narratives and they are feeling the competitive exhilaration of engaging in immoral acts as players in a game that engages multiple senses and sensations. This is dangerous stuff for the soul.

Mike Musgrove in The Washington Post:
I've never found it likely that bloody video games cause bad behavior in kids, but then again, I'd also never pass any of my old copies of the games to a child. So I'm a little unsure about how to react to a recent study showing that the game is more popular than any other among 12- to 14-year-old boys.

Lazlo Jones, one of the game's creators, "If you let your child play this game, you're a bad parent."

Url, the blog facilitator of Out of Ur has written a full post on playing a previous version of the game, and his thoughts about whether it's caused him to sin or not.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blogalogue: N T Wright and Bart Ehrman

I've just been alerted to an ongoing conversation/blogalogue between N T Wright and Bart Ehrman, on the subject of why God allows suffering. I don't think the conversation is finished yet; at least I hope it isn't, as neither seems to have come to the end of what they have to say.
When reading it, make sure you start at the bottom of the page, and work upwards. The first post is quite some way down.
Here's the intro from BeliefNet.
Is our pain God’s problem? If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow so much suffering? These kinds of questions—sometimes called the problem of theodicy—have long bothered believers and nonbelievers alike. These questions are especially pressing now as we face the AIDS pandemic, widespread hunger, and environmental degradation—not to mention the grief that humans can cause one another. Our two guests for this new Beliefnet Blogalogue have devoted part of their lives to addressing these issues. Bart Ehrman is James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of God's Problem and Misquoting Jesus, among many other titles. N.T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham for the Church of England and has taught at McGill, Oxford, and Cambridge. His books include Surprised By Hope, Evil and the Justice of God, and several other titles.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Jurgen Moltmann and the future

There are two ways of talking about the future. One is the method of extrapolation. The other is the method of anticipation. All researchers into the future and all planners for the future extrapolate, inferring the future from data and trends of the past and present. For them the past and the future lie along one and the same straight, temporal line. There is no qualitative difference between past and future. So they are not really investigating the future at all. They are simply prolonging into the future their own present … they repress the future’s new possibilities. The future is what is going to be, not what is going to come.

The method of anticipation works quite differently. Anticipation means expectation and an advance realization of what is coming. Anticipations are advance pictures and pre-conceptions (in the literal sense) of what we are looking for and expect. They are creative imaginations of what is to come … For the method of anticipation there is a qualitative difference between past and future. The past is the reality, the future is possible, and the present is the front at which potentialities can be realized or thwarted.

From Jesus Christ for Today’s World, by Jurgen Moltmann, Pg 138-139

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What twenty-somethings think?

According to a new poll by the J Walter Thompson advertising agency, twentysomethings show a lot of respect for traditional values.

The agency found 94 percent respect parenthood and 84 percent have great esteem for marriage. Just a quarter said they respect Hollywood.

A spokeswoman for the agency Ann Mack was surprised by the findings and said, “It could be because they are more idealistic as a generation," she said, "but it could be because they are so young and not yet jaded.”

However, Mark Johnson, who works with B2G (better2gether), a ministry of the Navigators for twentysomethings, said he believes this generation is reacting to the fact that “at least half of them that we see have come out of some kind of dysfunctional or broken home. They are wanting something more or better than what they have come from.”

While it may depend on which twenty-somethings were interviewed (were they mostly middle-class?) it does remind us that there's a big mission field amongst them, particularly if their homelife has been dysfunctional. And the same applies to NZ.

Child Poverty in New Zealand

The Maxim Institute notes that:
The Child Poverty Action Group is arguing that those who live on the lowest incomes in our society should receive more help—at the expense of those making use of the new KiwiSaver scheme. These controversial recommendations are made in CPAG's latest report Left behind: How social and income inequalities damage New Zealand children. The report claims some facets of Working for Families are in fact "discrimination against the children of beneficiaries." It also calls for further help in the form of higher benefits, smaller taxes on the lowest incomes, and increased health and education services for children. It is suggested these increases should be funded by removing the Government contribution to KiwiSaver, by way of the employer tax credit. The report raises some important questions about the role of welfare, should it be helping those who are poorest in our society or be used instead of tax cuts to redistribute wealth through the middle class.

The Executive summary of Left Behind is available online here. The full report is available as a hardcopy from CPAG.

Tony Blair on his faith

One of the oddest questions I get asked in interviews, and I get asked a lot of questions, is: Is faith important to your politics? It's like asking someone whether their health is important to them or their family. If you are someone "of faith," it is the focal point of belief in your life. There is no conceivable way that it wouldn't affect your politics.

Meek inheriting the earth

The meek do not assume to control the earth, nor do they live beyond their means. The realize that people cannot continue to abuse the earth with impunity, because they are receptive enough to the forces of creation that are beyond our control. If it is true that the meek will inherit the earth, then a community that embraces meekness as a virtue will want to make sure there is an earth worth inheriting. Reducing the production of waste, reusing materials as often as possible and recycling waste once it cannot be used any further should be second nature for such a community.

Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed