• Was Jesus a Wimp?

    The new Rector of St Mark’s Darling Point, Michael Jensen, has written a thought provoking blog entitled The Wimp that Won. As with all of Michael’s writing it is clear, lucid and has enough quotes from dead theologians and poets to make you realize that Michael is one brainy dude who has studied at Oxford and that he probably wrote the piece in a tweed jacket. 

    The guts of the blog is that Jesus was not an Ubermensch, which is an idea created by the crazily brilliant German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The Ubermensch is a person who will act as his own God, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit according to him alone. The Ubermensch is an independent individual who has the power to banish herd instincts from his mind and become a master of self discipline. So basically he is the type of person that every atheistic undergrad uni student wants to be but can’t because they are still living with their mum.

    Michael says that Jesus was not a beastly or tough dude (my words)  but a man who gave up everything for the glory of his father and for our betterment and he was cruelly beaten and died an ignominious death on the cross and therefore we should be just like him. Jesus was a wimp that won and we should be the same

    But here is where Michael and I disagree. The Jesus of Philippians 2 can’t be a wimp, to give up all that he has and die for others is not a wimpish thing to do at all. It is a model of perfect toughness and love. It is the definition of what strength is. So in Michael’s obvious hyperbole he has undercut something very unique and manly about Jesus. He has also lost an opportunity say something very profound about what true toughness and manliness is. True toughness and manliness is not having a beard and tattoos, drinking scotch and smoking cigars all while reading Calvin’s Institutes and beating up an Arminian. No real toughness and  real manliness is knowing when to wield your might and power. In Jesus’ love for humanity, in the incarnation, Jesus chose not to wield his considerable might and power for the sake of those he loved and yet, in his return, we will see that might and power on full display.

    Was Jesus a wimp? Hell no. He was a true man, one who knew when  to wield his power and when to relinquish it for the good of others. This is not wimpish, it is ultimate manliness and toughness on full display.

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  • An Interview With Graham Cole on The Incarnation

    Aussie theologian Graham Cole has a new book coming out in a few days called The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation. I recently interviewed Graham about the book. Here is the transcript:

    Most books have a back story behind the author writing the book what is the story behind you writing this book?

    I made an observation to a friend, Don Carson, how the Old Testament speaks of God as though God were incarnate. Language about God’s eyes, heart, arms, fingers, hands etc. Technically put, this is anthropomorphic (human shaped) language. Next thing I know I have a book contract to explore the observation from one end of the Bible to the other.

    What is the main idea you are trying to capture in this book?

    The big idea is that God providentially in his Old Testament revelation of himself provides the conceptual framework such that when the incarnation takes place it can be understood. This was not seen in advance by Old Testament writers. They expected Yahweh to come to Zion and an agent of God’s kingdom to deliver them but an incarnation of the God of Israel? In Paul’s terms it was a mystery ( a secret now revealed as in 1 Timothy 3:16). But in retrospect the divine groundwork comes magnificently into view.

    Are there any controversial theological issues regarding that incarnation that you are trying to address in this book?

    I address a number. For example, would the incarnation have taken place if sin had not entered the world? Another is this. Is the missional centre of gravity in the New Testament the incarnation or the cross?

    If you were going to preach a 4-6 week series on the incarnation what passages would select to preach on and what would you want to be getting out of each passage?

    The series would explore ‘The Purpose of the Incarnation’

    Week 1: To Reveal the Father to Us (John 1:1-18)

    Week 2: To Redeem the Enslaved (Galatians 4:4-7)

    Week 3: To Defeat the Devil for Us (Hebrews 2:14-15)

    Week 4: To Represent Us Eternally (Hebrews 7:11-28)

    What do you hope that readers get out of reading this book?

    God so loved the world he did not send a surrogate (e.g. a wise person or a prophet) but His own beloved Son who in becoming one of us knows the human condition from the inside. At the tomb side of Lazarus he wept a human tear (John 11:35). I hope that the book leads to doxology: the praise of God at the wonder of the incarnation.

    And finally, what do you miss most about Australia?

    I miss our children, grandchildren and great food.

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Jesus

    It is very easy to think that Christianity is for a certain kind of person. Someone who is weak willed or someone who is a moral outcast or someone down on their luck. There are people who think Christianity is not for them. They are the people who are, in their own eyes at least, strong, successful, morally reputable and because of these qualities they think they don’t need Jesus. But if Christians are honest we have two groups of people in mind too and they accord with the two groups of people mentioned above.

    It is interesting as we read the biography of Jesus entitled John that we come across two people in two adjacent chapters who couldn’t be more different. In John chapter 3 we meet Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a person who has got it together in almost every way. He knows his Bible, he is moral and he is a well respected leader. In John chapter four we meet an unnamed woman who is almost the opposite of Nicodemus. She is a moral failure, a person with no influence who has a broken life. But here is the thing. Jesus shows that they both need to trust him. As Don Carson puts it:

    “John may intend a contrast between the woman of this narrative and Nicodemus of chapter 3. He was learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable of only folk religion. He was a man, a Jew, a ruler; she was a woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And both need Jesus.”

     Don Carson, The Gospel According to John, 216

    There is application for all of us here.

    Those who don’t call ourselves Christians. Have you really checked Jesus out? Have you examined the reasons why you think you don’t need him and the reasons why he says you do? What if you chose to read 1 chapter of John’s biography of Jesus every day for the next 21 days and really come to grip with who Jesus is and what he did? I promise you it will enrich your life. You can start reading John’s biography of Jesus here

    For those of us that do know him lets not think of two different categories of people, those that obviously need Jesus and those that don’t, because in John Chapters 3 and 4 we see that all people need Jesus.

    What else hits you from John chapters 3 and 4 as you read it?

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  • Are all religions just culturally conditioned?

    One of the things that irks most people today is to say that there is only one right religion. I mean how arrogant is that! As a Christian how can I say that my beliefs are better or more truthful than a Muslim’s beliefs or a Buddhist’s beliefs?

    One of the biggest objections to the idea of exclusivism (the belief that there is only one God and there is only one way to that God) is to assert that all religions are just culturally conditioned responses to reality. The argument goes like this: I am a white western male and therefore it is obvious that I would be a Christian because generally white western males, if they are going to believe in something, they will believe in the Christian God. But if I grew up in Morocco I would be a Muslim because most males in Morocco are Muslim. Therefore if this is true then this proves that all religions are culturally conditioned responses to reality and we should not say one is better than the other!

    Here is how the great philosopher Alvin Plantinga responds to this objection:

    “Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would have been quite different. But the same Goes for the pluralist.. If the pluralist had been born in Morocco he probably wouldn’t be a pluralist. Does it follow that… his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief producing process?’

    Alvin Plantinga, A Defense of Religious Exclusivism, p. 205

    In this quote Plantinga points out that the objection cuts both ways. For example, if an atheist student had been born in Morocco, then he probably would be a Muslim, not an atheist!  Does it follow that his atheist beliefs are merely conditioned by his parents or peers?  As Tim Keller observes “You can’t say, ‘All claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now.’”

    All people whether they are Christians, Muslims or atheists are products of the cultures they were raised in. But atheists would never want to say that their atheism is merely the result of cultural conditioning.

    When we go down the road of claiming that those who disagree with me only believe what they believe because of their culture or upbringing or some because of ignorance I am not giving their position any respect.  I am simply patronizing them and really I don’t care about them or their position I am just trying to be right.

    Are religions culturally conditioned. To certain extent yes. But that doesn’t mean that there is no one true religion.

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  • How Christians get Holiness Wrong

    What does it mean to be holy? When I was a teenager I thought that to be holy meant that you shouldn’t do certain things (e.g. have sex outside of marriage, swear, listen to the Backstreet Boys, etc.). This version of holiness says you are holy if you avoid the wrong things. This is what I think Christians generally mean when they talk about holiness.

    But there is something missing with this view of holiness. Actually not something missing but someone missing. Notice how Jesus is missing from this view of holiness? Because Jesus is missing from this view of holiness it not only is it not Christ centered but it can be legalistic. I I am only concerned with doing the right things and not doing the wrong things my life therefore becomes about me and what I am doing but as Christians we know that our lives should be all about Jesus.

    Having Jesus at the centre of our holiness also reminds of us of where our holiness comes from. It doesn’t come from a certain will within ourselves. It comes from Jesus who made us holy by his shed blood on the cross.

    What does this look like practically I hear you ask. It means now we live out of who we are. The Bible says we are new creations and therefore we live like we are new creations. We don’t do the things we did once because that is not who we are anymore. As you can see a Jesus centered holiness is less about striving to be someone or something and more about becoming what we already are. Sure it means that we will not do some things (like listen to the Backstreet Boys) and we will do other things (read our Bibles and pray). But our motivation for doing these things is different. We are trying to be who we are because,  in Jesus, we already are holy.  It means because Jesus has made us right with God we are totally dedicated to him and therefore we will be apart form anything that is sinful. As Anthony A. Hoekema says

    Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, holiness means more than doing certain good things and not doing certain bad things; rather, it means being totally dedicated to God and separated from all that is sinful. 

     

  • You Have Never Felt More Insignificant, You Have Never Felt More Alive

    Have you ever just looked up at the stars in the sky and just thought about how far away they are? What happens when you do is that you start to realise how small you are, and how insignificant you are. I remember when I was in Moree. Sometimes me and a few mates would go down to the local sports field at night and lie on our backs and stare up into the stars. Yeah, there wasn’t much to do in Moree. But what Moree did have is no pollution or city lights. So the sky just lit up before you. I remember one of my mates saying, “I love coming down here and staring up into the sky. It is when I feel the most insignificant and yet I feel the most alive.”

    Think about it why do you go to places like in that example? Why do people go to the Blue Mountains and look out over the vast valley? Why do people stare up in space, and feel at the same time, insignificant yet never more alive? Because written into your DNA is the truth. That you and I weren’t made to be made much of.  We were made to make much of God, your heart won’t be stilled or satisfied, you will never be truly joyful until you find total rest in him. It is only in God that you will find your true and ultimate joy. And the first step to finding that joy is to come to grips with your own insignificance. Because when you feel your own insignificance you won’t want to make much of yourself, but you will want to make much of your God.

     

  • Would Jesus have killed Osama?

    I think in years to come you will remember where you were when you heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Bin Laden was a man who had terrorized the world attacking anyone who was ideologically opposed to him.  For many of us there is welcome relief that justice has been done and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that he is dead.

    But as I was watching the new reports and I was seeing the glee that many people had in response to the news I was thinking “what is the Christian response to this?” and “what would have Jesus done?”[1]

    Three texts come to mind when I think about the recent events.

    The first is Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). I wonder if we were to ask the people who were out the front of the Whitehouse last night cheering for joy over the killing of Bin Laden “Do you love Bin Laden?” or “When was the last time you prayed for him?” what they would have said. As Christians we are called to love our enemies. This is a seemingly impossible command but one that should be the most prominent ways Christians are different from others.

    The second text is where Jesus forgives his enemies on the cross (Luke 23:34). Jesus is hanging on a cross being punished unjustly and he is not spitting out words of hate or death against his enemies he is praying for them, he is forgiving them! Forgiveness when we are wronged is much harder than vengeance, it requires us to take the pain that we have felt when we are wronged and deal with it not by getting revenge but by some other way. Once again I wonder if you asked those people partying outside the Whitehouse if they had forgiven Osama what they would have said.

    The third text that comes to mind is Revelation 19:11-22. In this text, John shares a vision he has of Jesus coming back in judgement. Jesus judges the rulers of this world that oppose him and destroys them. This is a graphic and frightening picture of that last day when Jesus returns in judgement. But it also reminds us of two things. Firstly, that God cannot let injustice and evil go unpunished. It is comforting to know that Jesus hated what happened on Sept. 11 more than anyone else. He hates evil no matter what form it comes in.  Secondly, it reminds us that vengeance and justice is ultimately God’s and it will be carried out by him one day. The reason we can forgive, love and pray for our enemies is the fact that God is in control and he will judge. He will not let evil go unpunished. So even if Osama was never caught or killed one day he would have to give an account to Jesus the judge of the whole world.

    So, back to our first question. Would Jesus have killed Osama? I don’t think we can say either way. But I do know he would have loved, prayed for and forgiven him. I also know he would be resting in the fact that God will ultimately bring justice to this world and justice and love not evil and terror will have the final say.


    [1] Before I start I want to be clear I am in no way saying the man who took the fatal shot was wrong. He was doing his job and I am thankful for men like him who puts their life on the line to fight in wars etc.

     

  • An Open Letter to Resolved

    What are we on about at Resolved?

    One of the things any organisation, whether it be a church, a company, or any other conglomeration of people, must ask is “What are we on about?” This is crucial because this question defines and controls everything the organisation does.

    If you were going to answer the question “What is Resolved on about?” what would you say? In the last month I have heard Resolved described as:

    • “The cool church”
    • “The church that meets in the pub”
    • “The church filled with angsty, young 20-somethings”
    • “The ‘out there’ church”
    • “The Musician/arty church”

    I think, to differing extents, these descriptions are true (except the cool part!) but I wish we weren’t described as these things. I wish we were described as:

    • The church which is on fire for Jesus (Acts 4:23-31)
    • The church which is passionate for those that don’t know Jesus yet (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
    • The church where people are lovingly confronted by Jesus in a real way (Acts 17:16-33)
    • The church where people really love like Jesus (1 John 4:7-11)
    • The church where people want to change because of what Jesus has done for them (Acts 19:17-19)

    You know what? I think I have seen all of the above at Resolved. I have been encouraged to see and hear of people praying for friends to know Jesus. I have been excited as I have seen people grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus. I have seen people come to Resolved who don’t know Jesus and they have come to know him!

    See, what we are on about at Resolved is Jesus! We want to glorify him and make him known! I pray that you are on board with that vision too! I pray that you are praying for your friends to know Jesus and that you are inviting them along to church or your community group. I pray that you are seeking to change in response to what you are hearing at church and studying in community group. I pray that you are growing to love the people at Resolved more because of the love that Jesus has poured into your heart!

    What is Resolved on about?

    One word……. Jesus!

    Are you on about Jesus too?