Showing posts from 2017

Precedent to Precept

Biblical hermeneutics (for those who like throwing big words into conversations) is the art and discipline of interpreting scripture.

The bible is a complex book, having been written over many centuries, in different cultures, in different places, and in different languages. Scholars study other texts written in similar places and times to get clues as to what certain words might mean. They investigate cultural practices, and styles of literature / oral traditions operating when the bible was written, to help us understand what the original authors might have intended to convey.

We need to approach interpreting the biblical texts with a degree of humility. We also need to note that the scriptures are not “flat”’ some texts carry more weight than others. Jesus noted:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should…

Some Thoughts to An Angry Agnostic

Have you ever encountered a hostile online (or real-life) atheist/agnostic who heaps rage and scorn upon religious people?

I have met such people. I once foolishly pointed out on an atheist blog that the post contained factual errors. I was promptly described as a #%*&ing moron. Charming.

Whenever dealing with any angry person, it’s wise to ask whether there is a story behind the anger. To ask whether something bad happened to them, or to someone they care about. Many people do have a painful experience they are more than willing to share, and do appreciate being heard.

However, some hostile people relish debate as a point-scoring exercise, seemingly to elevate their own sense of self-importance. It feels to me like stereotypical male undergraduate behaviour*… though some people in their 70’s have maintained this level of psycho-spiritual development. Others are more like emotional two-year-olds. (But I digress).

Some hostile people are just bullies; they relish the opportunity to…

Eternal Subordination?

Dear Complementarian Friend,

In my last post, I wrote from the perspective of a minister and church leader, concerned about the impact on the church of proclaiming certain views about women.

For this one, I’d like to put on my theological hat.

The whole term "Complementarian" has been around for 30 years, as a reaction to some evangelicals promoting equality for women in marriage and in the church. The counter-arguments (and the torrents of books and articles) began in earnest.

It seems to me these Complementarian arguments are on a sliding scale of merit.

Some appeal to biology (“men and women are biologically different, and reflect different roles... that doesn’t make them unequal”). Some appeal to proof texts (“wives, submit to your husbands”). Some appeal to biblical precedent (“the twelve apostles were all men”) (1) Some appeal to church tradition… and a mixture of all of this and more. I can discuss such things civilly, I hope. (2)

But there is a Complementarian argu…

Can you Please be Quiet About it?

Dear Complementarian Friends,

I know you are sincere in your belief that God has ordained different roles for men and women. I know you are trying to obey God's revelation through scripture. I commend you for that.

However, I think it would be wise if you kept a low profile on your views about the place of women. Please bear with me as I explain.

Alarmingly, some of you are claiming in public spaces that Complementarianism is THE Christian view. Some have even been saying Egalitarians are in error, unbiblical, and sinful.

You must surely be aware many Christian denominations... Pentecostals, Baptists, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, most Anglican Dicoese in Australia, the Uniting Church and others… DO ordain women. Making comments about how Egalitarians are sinful, unfaithful, and unbiblical doesn't exactly help the cause of church unity. Do you really think it’s a salvation issue? Is it a question you ask at confirmation or Baptism? It’s one thing to have a strong view, …

Spiritual Orphans

“Ancient youth like Jacob and Esau grew up at a time when questions like ‘Who are my people? Why am I here? What gives my life meaning and coherence?’ were answered, literally, by the faith of their fathers, not by theories of ego development. Yet these questions of belonging, purpose, and ideology remain at the core of human identity; while we have learned to think of them as psychological issues, such questions have historically fallen to religion to answer, ritualized in the traditions and practices of communities that seek to embody a particular story of identity.” (Kendra Creasy Dean)

I suggest our world is full of spiritual orphans.

Orphans are left to fend for themselves; to pick up whatever sustenance and shelter they can find. Orphans, unless adopted, are not nurtured and struggle to thrive. They don’t know who they are or where they belong.

Religious communities have traditionally provided a spiritual home for young people; providing the stories, metaphors, rituals and exten…

Cultural assumptions and reading scripture

One human characteristic is to interpret what we read through the grid of our assumptions and world view. We interpret texts (including the bible) according to the norms of our culture, our family of origin, the style and level of education we have received, our own personality, and all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle socialisation experiences. We interpret what the church should be like through the grid of our personal experiences of church, often with greater passion and clarity than with anything the New Testament has to say about church. Anyone who has had a battle in their church over hymns versus choruses, where the communion table should sit, how long the service should run, a building program or a management problem, can testify that passions can run high over issues that have NOTHING to do with good theology or the bible, and everything to do with the expectations people have based on their prior experiences of church and family. This is perfectly normal and to be expecte…

Missing Missy

Just in case you missed "Missing Missy"

Bad Puns

Just tried the new coffee - Osama Bin Latte. It has a fluffy white head with two shots in it.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'

Then there was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

Did you know that 6 of the 7 dwarfs aren't Happy?

Two antennas fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't …

The Good Friday Story

Scientists can tell us about space and energy and atoms and enzymes and DNA… which is all fascinating. And the deeper into the science you go, the more it draws you into wonder. That anything exists at all is fantastical; miraculous!

But human beings make sense of their lives not via disconnected facts but via stories and rituals. Small children thrive on routine and rituals: mealtimes, playtimes, bathtimes, storytimes, bedtimes. Their minds and hearts expand via stories. Stories help children to make sense of chaos, clarify a sense of morality, give names and metaphors to human experience, gain insight into relationships, expand their imagination.

At Easter time we retell an extraordinary story of a victim of injustice, misguided religious zeal and corrupt power. A story of the brutal murder of an innocent man. A story of sacrifice.

Stories about sacrifice are repeated across the ages and in contemporary culture. Carton dying in the place of Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities; Jack haul…

The Gift of Bad Examples

Back when studying teaching in the murky depths of the last millennium, when introducing a new concept we were advised to:

• Name it
• Define it
• Identify and discuss its qualities
• Show examples
• Show non-examples

This idea is explained here, and some examples of this in practice are here and here and here.

I’ll admit I was rather taken by the idea of non-examples. They clarify boundaries, and eliminate fuzziness. They are a powerful way to learn.

I’ve been wondering lately whether this is also true for some leadership competencies? Might it be easier to learn from non-examples… or bad examples… than from good examples?

To illustrate:

Have you ever had a manager who avoided making decisions? Decisions that NEEDED to be made? It's painful! It’s a non-example of good leadership. This kind of experience strengthens my resolve not to be like that, but to make decisions in a timely fashion.

At the other extreme, have you ever known a leader who rushed to make decisions withou…

What is Truth?*

On a Facebook conversation recently l pointed out a factually incorrect claim, and posted a reputable link pointing out the error. OK, you don’t expect applause when you correct such things, but I was interested in this response:

"You believe what you want to, just as I do."

This was my exasperated reply:

"Believe what you want to?
I trained as a scientist. I believe where facts lead me.
And l seem to spend half my life fact checking with so much bogus information circulating. It's exhausting.
Welcome to the post truth world."

I’ve had another intelligent friend sending me links lately with completely false information. I’ve kept replying in statements like this:

“That’s from Brietbart News, famous for promoting blatantly fake stories such as ‘Hillary runs a paedophile ring’. It’s not a reputable source. No, that one is from Joseph Farah, who keeps claiming Obama was born in Kenya when this has been proven false. No that one is from RT, Russia Today, a propaga…

Keeping Focus in Coaching

It’s possible to drift in coaching relationships. They can become a pleasant catch up, but be relatively ineffective in helping another grow personally, spiritually, and vocationally. Indeed, they can become frustrating sessions, where old issues are re-hashed with little evidence of increasing maturity or responsibility in the coachee.

One of the most important steps in keeping coaching relationships effective is contracting well. Expectations need to be crystal clear, with key goals / growth areas identified at the outset.

Some of the expectations that should be built in to a powerful coaching agreement/contract include:

* preparation for sessions. The coachee should agree to bring an issue to every session.
* commitment to action steps. The coachee is clear s/he desires to grow, and commits to implementing any actions arising from each session.
* regular meetings. If meetings are only very occasional or are made on an ad-hoc basis, the coachee may feel little pressure to implement ac…