Category Archives: Theology

One African Postcolonial Theology: The Imperative to Differ

Dr Kenzo Mabiala gave a brilliant talk at the first Amahoro conference in Uganda in May 2007. I recorded this on a handheld recorder – it’s worth persevering through the low quality because this lecture is sheer genius. Kenzo says that theological work done in Africa has the imperative to differ from theology from the West, and must have the courage to denouce Western theology – which “came of age during the rise of colonialism” – as being used to seeing itself as the centre around which other theologies must orient themselves (in other words: theological arrogance which claims that Western theology is the only correct theology, and all other theologies need to understand themselves in relation to Western theology).

amahoro01_Mabiala_Kenzo.mp3 (size 12 MB’s).

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Why Men Can’t Lead – and faulty logic about women in leadership

Originally posted on 30 May 2007

I was sent this by a friend – its meant to be a joke and quite funny. It is. But there is a shred of sad truth in these ten reasons why men can’t lead… the sad truth is that this is the same type of logic many churches still use to exclude women from leadership.

TEN REASONS – ACCORDING TO THE NATURAL ORDER OF THE WORLD, SOCIAL CUSTOM, AND THEOLOGY – WHY MEN SHOULD NOT BE ORDAINED

    1. The male physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as picking turnips or de-horning cattle. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work. How can we argue with nature?

    2. For men who have children, their duties as ministers might detract from their responsibilities as parents. Instead of teaching their children important life skills like how to make a wiener-roasting stick, they would be off at some committee meeting or preparing a sermon. Thus these unfortunate children of ordained men would almost certainly receive less attention from their male parent.

    3. According to the Genesis account, men were created before women, presumably as a prototype. It is thus obvious that men represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    4. Men are overly prone to violence. They are responsible for the vast majority of crime in our country, especially violent crime. Thus they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    5. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinate position that all men should take. It is expected that even ordained men would be unable to withstand the natural male tendency to buckle under pressure.

    6. Jesus didn’t ordain men. He didn’t ordain any women either, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    7. Men are simply too emotional to be ordained. Their conduct at football matches, in the army, at political conventions and especially at Promise Keepers Rallies amply demonstrates this tendency.

    8. Many men are simply too handsome to lead public worship. They could prove to be a distraction to the women in the congregation!

    9. To be an ordained pastor is to nurture and strengthen a whole congregation. But these are not traditional male roles. Throughout the history of Christianity, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. If men try to fit into this nurturing role, our young people might grow up with severe gender role confusion.

    10. If the Church is the Bride of Christ, then it goes without saying that all ordained leaders should be female. It just makes theological sense!

Developing Kingdom Vision (by Reg Codrington)

This was originally posted on 19 April 2006

I have enjoyed interacting with my father over the past few years.  For most of my life, he has been many miles ahead of me on the spiritual journey we’re all on.  But, in the past few years, we’ve found ourselves journeying together on a new path. 

He recently sent me some thoughts he had put together after reading a book I think I have him for Christmas last year.  He calls these writings his “Wooden Spoons” (for stirring).

Here is what he sent me.

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I am a social justice Christian

Recently, the crazed Fox “News” commentator, Glenn Beck, argued that social justice was a foil for Nazism and Communism (see the original clip on his radio show on 2 March 2010, or an extended version on his TV show on 23 March 2010, part 2, 3 and 4).

I don’t want to give his crazy notions more airtime. His fundamental error happens in the first few minutes of his program, when he basically defines social justice in a way that no-one would recognise – in a way that plays completely into his own agenda. In fact, one of the best video responses (see it here), points out how ludicrous it is to see “social justice” as a “progressive” plot. Ronald Reagan was a big supporter of social and economic justice, and I don’t think you can accuse him of being communist or socialist! Another video response (here) comes from Jim Wallis, the man Beck attacks.

It seems to me that it could just be a case of bad terminology and definition. (Although to see the real problem with Beck and Christianity, you need to look at part 3 at about 07:00 – he wants Christianity to be completely internal and unrelated to public policy at all). We’ll see how it plays out.

Over the past weekend a group of Christian film makers started a project to get people from around the world to submit video messages proclaiming their support for social justice. See the campaign website here, and respond to the YouTube video here.

Concidentally, just last week I posted one of the best defenses of Christian social justice I have ever read at this site. If you didn’t read it, do so now – I am sure you will find it very helpful.

For the record: I am a Christian. I am a social justice Christian.

How can we change ingrained mistakes in our Bible reading?

I have been invited once again to speak in Iran later this year – and I am really looking forward to it. I have done a lot of work in the Middle East over the years, and enjoy Persian culture the most. The hospitality of the Persians is the stuff of legend. In fact, some guidebooks even warn you to be careful about complimenting your hosts furnishing too much, as they are quite likely to give you the object as a gift – and that could be embarrassing.

One of the reasons I am fascinating by Middle Eastern culture is that this is the modern representation of the culture that forms the backdrop of the Bible. Obviously, much has changed over the centuries, but in many parts of the Middle East you can still find people living very similarly to the type of world Jesus would have encountered. Some scholars have dedicated their lives to helping us understand the impact that the prevailing culture should have on our interpretation of the Bible. My favourite is Kenneth Bailey (buy his “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” at Amazon or Kalahari.net).

An understanding of the underlying culture can dramatically change the reading of a story (see, for example, a recent sermon I preached on the Prodigal Son).

But my issue today is that if a new insight is so big that it changes everything we were ever taught, would we be prepared to change everything? I mean, everything from the stories we tell our children, to how we view specific characters? The correct answer, of course, is that we MUST make such changes if we realise that we have misunderstood (or even misrepresented) the Bible. God’s Word must stand supreme over all.

There is such an issue… and it relates to one of the greatest of all Bible stories. And we have it all wrong.

Continue reading How can we change ingrained mistakes in our Bible reading?

Jesus and the “Social Gospel” – by Dr Reg Codrington

Originally posted on 1 June 2008

There was such a great response to a recent post of an article written by my father, that I thought I’d post something else by him. Anyone who grew up thinking that the “social gospel” was a problem would do well to read this.

Jesus and the “Social Gospel”

Dr Reg B Codrington

INTRODUCTION

When I was growing up, the denomination of which I was part used the term “Social Gospel” almost as a swear word. We were taught that “liberal” denominations who placed a focus on meeting social needs were guilty of, and I quote, “sending a well-fed sinner to hell”. The focus had to be on “saving souls” and everything else had to be subjugated to that aim.

Now let me make it clear at the outset that I still believe that the most important thing that can happen to a person is that he or she enters into a vital, living relationship with Christ and lives in accordance with His teachings, as revealed in the Word of God. But I have become increasingly convinced that what I was taught as a youngster was just a part of a much bigger picture which, sadly, I only began to understand nearly forty years later! What a serious responsibility lies in the hands of teachers of the Word to ensure that they teach the whole gospel to our young people!

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What we are saved from and what we are saved for – sermon podcast

In March 2007, I preached a sermon at my local church, Bryanston Bible Church, in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is one of my favourite sermons of all time, and deals with something that I actually think is at the heart of what’s wrong with the evangelical church today.

Last Sunday, while attending my current local church, Dundonald, I was reminded of this sermon and the concept behind it. We were having a special outreach service, and as part of it there was an interview of some of our church members. One of the questions that they were asked was: “What’s the best thing about being a Christian?”. The answer was interesting. They said that it was “the hope of spending eternity in heaven and living today without guilt or condemnation.” No doubt, these are great benefits and worth enjoying.

But is it enough? And is this really the BEST thing about being a Christian?

I grew up in a tradition that largely held out the threat of hell as the main reason for accepting Jesus as “my personal Lord and Saviour”. Evangelical churches rightly focus on evangelism. But they often use this approach of fear of retribution. Therefore, the message is primarily about what we are saved FROM.

But, salvation is just as much about what we are saved FOR. Eternal life begins now, and our salvation demands a response – on this earth, in this life. We need to be careful – we are in danger of preaching a watered down, half-truth Gospel. We are saved FOR something, as well as saved FROM something.

Listen to the sermon by downloading it here (13 Mb, MP3 file). You can see the notes I preached from below.

Continue reading What we are saved from and what we are saved for – sermon podcast

A fun example of the human side of Biblical inspiration

Originally posted on 10 June 2008

Like all evangelicals, I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. This means that God inspired human writers in such a way that every word in the Bible (in the original language and original documents) is exactly the word God intended to be there. But this does not mean that God simply dictated the Bible, nor that he turned the authors into automatons. He understood the character and personality (and expertise and background) of the writers, and worked in partnership with this to write a series of documents that is truly unique – a divine collaboration that is both infallible and inerrant (in the original).

To interpret the Bible, we must understand both God (as far as possible, and doing so empowered by God’s Spirit) and the human author. This means that, amongst other things, we must understand the author’s personality, culture, context, writing style, background, training and experiences.

A fun example will illustrate…

The story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years is repeated in different Gospels. Mark, the most direct of the Gospel authors explains her situation like this:

Mark 5:25-26 – “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (NIV)

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The marks of a genuine Christian – reflections on a sermon

This morning at church, we looked at the first six verses of Colossians chapter one. Our pastor titled the sermon, “The marks of a genuine Christian”.

He’s a good communicator and preached well. But this morning did expose a weakness in the evangelical desire to chunk the Bible up into ‘bite size chunks’ and preach verse by verse exposition. The Bible was not written in chapters and verses – and there is a danger that we impose an artificial structure onto God’s Word that distorts its meaning.

I don’t want to sound like a whiner about this, but it really does irritate me when evangelical presuppositions result in glaring omissions from Biblical exposition. To put it simply, I think our pastor got it wrong this morning – not in what he did say, but in what he didn’t.

Today’s sermon gave us three marks of a genuine Christian: Faith in Jesus (v4); Love for other Christians (v4); and, Hope of heaven (v5). But what about verse 6 – that the Good News of the Gospel is bearing fruit? The New Living Translation helpfully translates verse 6 as the Good News “is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives since the day you heard and understood the truth about God’s grace.”

This emphasis on changed lives in the here and now is then reiterated powerfully in verses 10 and 11.

In fact verses 8 through 13 just repeat what was said in the first six verses. The “three marks of a genuine Christian” are repeated again, but it seems to me that there is clearly at least a fourth sign: that our lives are meant to demonstrate that the Gospel has come (I also think there is something there about growing in our depth of understanding of what God has done for us – but I’ll leave that for another day). If everything we believe makes no difference to how we live now, what is it worth? And that does not simply mean some spiritual longing for a better life somewhere else. It means that we strive hard to “make it on earth as it is in heaven” – just as Jesus taught us to pray!

Faith in Jesus, love for others and the saints, and hope in heaven are definitely signs of being a genuine Christian. But they are not enough. The Bible is clear and consistent in its witness that you prove your Christian beliefs by your good works. Colossians 1 itself is clear on this. Why do evangelicals so easily and consistently miss the “good works” theme of the Gospel when it is in such plain sight?

The Jesus Manifesto – by Len Sweet and Frank Viola

Originally Posted on 23 June 2009

I was sent an email today that contained an excellent manifesto from one of my favourite thinkers and authors, Len Sweet.

It’s titled: “A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church”
by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

You can read the original at their blog: http://ajesusmanifesto.wordpress.com/

It really is worth it. Thought-provoking and powerful. I like it a lot, and think we need to take our Christ-centric nature more seriously.