Is Paul Divided? 02

26 05 2009
Copenhagen c.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is the second good quote. This one comes from Troels Engberg-Pedersen of Copenhagen:

Paul should not be seen against a ‘background’ from which he would stand out in splendid isolation. Such a picture would not do justice to the many and complex ways in which he interacted directly with his cultural contemporaries. Instead, we should view Paul as one among them, as a coplayer within a shared ‘context’ that would allow any player to stand out momentarily and for a specific issue of interpretation, but also to receded again later into the shared context.

It does seem to me that we often do Paul and ourselves an injustice when we oversimplify his background, and separate him unnecessarily from his own “culture.” Your thoughts?

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Ethics Resources – bethinking.org

1 12 2008
The Thinker, Rodin (1880)

Image by radiospike via Flickr

Check out this website: bethinking.org.

(UK readers may already know this site; but in case you don’t…) Bethinking.org is an apologetics website, put together by UCCF (the umbrella organisation for Christian Unions in the UK, affilated to IFES).

The site includes an ethics section, and lots of other apologetics resources too. The material is high quality, and it’s updated frequently. The resources are categorised by difficulty (“Introductory”, “Intermediate”, “Advanced”). Lots of them are in written format, but some are mp3s.

Here’s the site’s own blurb:

bethinking.org aims to bring together the best possible resources for thinking about and communicating the Christian faith. Its goal is to help to prepare all Christians to provide an answer to those who deny the truth of Christianity. Whether that’s answering the attacks of Richard Dawkins, discussing our faith with a Muslim colleague or chatting about the latest episode of Dr Who with a neighbour, bethinking.org aims to provide you with talks and articles that stimulate you to think about your faith and its relation to the world and culture around us, and then to show how Christianity is not only true, but provides the answers to life’s biggest questions.

You’ll notice there’s a bit of a UK spin.  But most of the material isn’t country-specific. Here’s a few example articles:

Posted by Rick Creighton





What preachers can learn from Obama

7 11 2008

Whatever your political bent, there are a number of things that preachers could learn from Obama’s victory speech. 

Obama victory speech

Image by Captain Nandu Chitnis via Flickr

1. He did not draw attention to himself

I would think that on the cusp of a profoundly historical event, and an extraordinary achievement, it would be all too easy to turn inward. To dwell on one’s journey, and focus on one’s hopes and dreams fulfilled would be a temptation that too many of us would not be able to resist. But Obama didn’t do that. It was about the people, not him; it was their victory, not his.

Preachers are to put Jesus on centre-stage, not themselves, and are to serve the people. Our hearers are not there to give us an audience. They are not there to glory in our abilities or godliness. And yet I’ve heard not a few preachers who are more self-aggrandizing than Obama was. That gives me pause.

2. He reflected on the big picture

Obama painted a picture of where America has come from, and how this election fits within it. Lincoln. Luther-King. Slavery to civil rights to a black president. The occasion was sharpened in its significance and importance by Obama’s skillful reference to the past. 

Preachers need always to paint the big picture. Not in a clumsy, here’s-how-Jesus-fits-in way, but in a way that helps their hearers appreciate the significance of their topic, why it matters, and how extraordinary God’s cosmic plan for reconciliation really is. 

3. He was understated… and it worked

With such a momentous occasion, I would expect someone else to be swept away with emotion. Yet Obama was calm and steady. It would have been easy to ride that wave of undulating excitement and emotion. Instead, Obama chose to speak with reserve and poise. The effect of this, for me, was to think that this guy is in control, and is serious about the challenge ahead. 

I’m not saying that preachers shouldn’t get excited. But sometimes I think preachers can make the mistake of thinking that unless they get worked up, their message won’t ‘hit home’. This just isn’t true. Obama spoke with reserve and understatement, and it was powerful. 

4. He spoke about the abstract in an accessible way

The part of the speech I’m thinking of here is when he started talking about the 106 year old woman who voted that day. She was born when women were not allowed to vote, and African Americans were not allowed to vote. She lived through two world wars and through the civil rights movement. She lived to see the day when an African American would be elected president. Then Obama pondered his daughter’s life, and what she would live to see, and what the world would be like at the end of her lifetime. What Obama was doing, of course, was to speak about an abstract thing in a tangible, concrete way. He was describing the progress of a country, and the enormous changes that have occurred within the last century, as well as the hopes for a better future. But he clothed this in a lovely story about an old woman, and the prospects of a young girl. 

I think preachers need to work hard at talking about great, yet abstract, truths in ways that are tangible and concrete for their hearers. Not everyone copes with abstract thought very well, and even when they do, it is often far less engaging than less abstract material. This might be read as a plug for sermon illustrations, and I guess it is in a way, but it’s more than that. Illustrations are one way of making abstract thought more accessible to hearers, but there are other ways too. And I think we should work hard at it. Obama did it beautifully and seamlessly. 

5. He cast a vision

Instead of making a big deal about the significance of an African American president, Obama cast a vision beyond himself, into the future, involving the commitment of the nation. He acknowledged the seriousness of America’s problems, and he asked the people for their help. He was no superhero who would solve their problems on his own strength. But together they could do it.

Preachers need to cast a vision beyond themselves, into the future, involving the commitment of their hearers. We need to point to the challenges ahead and yet provide hope that, in Christ and with the Spirit, we may, together, honour Christ.

 

This whole post has been about ‘human’ techniques to do with good communication. But we should remember that preaching is much more than this. We preach, filled with the Spirit of God, wielding the sword of the Spirit, while the Spirit works in people’s hearts, pointing them to Jesus. Obama was great, and the spirit of the event was powerful, but it was not a patch on the Spirit at work as God’s word is proclaimed. 

Posted by Con Campbell