Oh! I never got that…

Insight can come from anywhere. Two recent ‘Aha!’ moments for me have come from a distinguished theology professor and my three-year-old daughter.

Reading a Bible story book with my daughter, we reached the one about the miraculous catch of fish. Peter was not yet a disciple, and he and the other fishermen had had a bad night and nothing to show for it. After a morning of teaching, Jesus asks them to head out and let down their nets again. Peter protests somewhat, but reluctantly agrees. And sure enough, they catch a whole bait-ball full of fish. Peter is suddenly struck by his own sinfulness in comparison with who Jesus surely must be, and Jesus calls him to be a ‘fisher of men’.

I’ve never really got that story. But with the help of the illustration, Kaira asked exactly the right question. ‘Why is that man cross, Daddy?’ And that is the question. Why is Peter masking his annoyance? It doesn’t take too much thinking before the answer is obvious. Continue reading

UCT Blasphemy and Free Speech

[This is a reproduction of the article that the Cape Times printed on Tuesday, for those who haven’t seen it].

The young editors of UCT’s regrettable Sax Appeal Magazine are hopefully taking some lessons in discretion, and perhaps spelling. The vulgar and blasphemous recent issue displayed no awareness of the difference between satire and stupidity, and was in general of such low quality as to be an offence to its sponsors. However, it is the response of my fellow Christians that is of more serious concern. Continue reading

Christians must stand with Atheists against the Religious

When we think of ‘enemies of the gospel’, I suppose high on the list of mental pictures would be atheists. Probably atheists with black eye-makeup and poorly concealed red horns. I have a fair number of atheist friends, and they’re all rather nice, actually. They’re passionate, thinking people; they just really don’t like my Bible.

In a strange turnaround, it seems that a rather more serious threat to the gospel than atheism is bubbling up from our own ranks. True, it has its origin primarily in the oil-on-water that is Islam mixing with the West, but these moves are being vocally supported by flocks of Christians. It has to do with religious attacks on the concept of free speech, and despite the serious implications of this attack upon our entire society, and indeed upon our faith, it is only the atheists who are speaking up about it.  Continue reading

Open Letter to Preachers #3

THE SPIRIT AND STUDY

Dear Preacher

I thought I’d write one last time, for now anyway, to try to encourage you to return to expository preaching and to your task of making clear the message of the gospel. I thought I’d challenge a most disturbing teaching that has gained some currency in popular evangelical and charismatic circles, and that comes dressed in spiritual guise, but is, I think, an evil of the reddest, most sulphurous kind.

In it’s crudest form, teachers are prone to declare that what they preach is not the product of study, but rather came to them at ‘the leading of the Spirit’. This teaching appears many different ways. Christians are discouraged from receiving theological education, because seminaries apparently suck all of the joy and zeal from one’s faith. Or, theological study is called ‘too academic’ or ‘head knowledge’, which, for an unexplored reason, is supposed therefore to be responsible for quenching the Spirit.

Now, we know why preachers wish to be seen to be ‘lead by the Spirit’ as opposed to have worked out a sermon through exegesis and methodical study. We’d all love to be like Paul, who claimed not to have been taught his gospel by any man, but to have received it without mediation from the Spirit Himself (although to align yourself with this experience, you’d tacitly be claiming apostleship of a kind not offered to you by the New Testament, and more importantly, ignoring what Paul actually received from the Lord for us teachers). There may well be other motivations at play. Claiming unmediated inspiration from God is a good bullying tactic to cause your listeners to think twice before disagreeing with you. Or, for the lazy, claiming the Spirit’s leading is a lovely way to avoid doing any actual work for your minister’s salary during the week, and it gives spiritual currency to your impromptu rambling. Continue reading