Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Australia’s first saint?

The Vatican has all but proclaimed Mary MacKillop to be Australia’s first saint. We congratulate our Roman Catholic friends on this recognition of the accomplishments of a remarkable woman and her potential elevation to her Church’s “hall of fame”. It makes a pleasant change from the incessant focus on our sporting heroes. I don’t even quibble with this use of the word “saint” as many Protestants do. Words mean what people use them to mean and it is churlish of Protestants to claim that we alone have the true definition of a “saint” just because some English Bibles use this word as a translation of hagios, applied in the NT to all followers of the Lord Jesus, while we use different words for our “worthies”. Words are capable of more than one meaning, of broader and narrower definitions, and we regularly use words in senses other than their NT uses.

What is curious is the way the media have on the whole suspended their usual healthy questioning — regarding her alleged miraculous posthumous activity. Disturbing, at least at the level of folk religion, if not the official Roman Catholic position, is the attribution of the miraculous cures to Mary, rather than Mary’s God. All prayer other than that directed to God in the name of Christ, is misplaced. Sadly, I fear we are in for a rather confused time as superstitious popular corruptions supplant Biblical truth in the guise of honouring a great Australian woman. We might have opportunity gently to point people to the one in whom true healing is to be found.

Monday, 30 November 2009

PTC Anagrams

Truth and wisdom can sometimes be anagramaticaly concealed in a name. What happens when you take the blender to

Presbyterian Theological Centre?

The year we started, one could imagine a small paragraph in our denominational magazine headed

Tiny college trains preacher-to-be

Or perhaps, thinking of 1 Timothy 5:17, we might get

Ace preaching? Only better toilers!

Or a variant, based on 2 Corinthians 4:7 might be

Clay preachers — one toiling better

A vision statement, mission statement and action plan in one might be

One in Christ A better college Pray

Our world missions perspective finds expression in

Yearn to etch clear gospel in tribe

Orthodoxy and orthopraxis blend in

Listen to grace in brotherly peace

It would be interesting to see if other colleges can yield some apt anagrams.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ageless Dinosaurs

No, I’m not referring to the PTC Faculty. A recent children’s book on dinosaurs boasts that it avoids the question of how long ago these lovable monsters roamed the earth and so should be acceptable to evolutionists and creationists alike.

What a great marketing idea! We could extend this please-all approach to future editions of the Bible. We could have a collapsible or expandable canon, with clever fold-out pages which could remain discreetly hidden for Protestants. There could be a version of the ten commandments which allowed a set of checkbox options as to which ones the reader would like included/omitted. The one on coveting might have some extra letters in brackets —You shall not co(n)ve(r)t — for those with an aversion to evangelism. The Song of Songs could come with brown paper wrapper, and instructions for gaining access once one has learned the meaning of the word allegory.

The gospels could come in the usual fourfold form, as well as a composite form for those who want to save the effort of hearing their different voices. The resurrection could be made an optional outcome in a choose-your own-ending to the life story of Jesus. There could even be some blank pages to describe the Christ of your own experience. It would be very handy to have a version of Paul’s letters which relegates to footnotes (only to be read by those with a peculiar bent for trying to understand the whole of his complex thought) all the troublesome bits and sticks to the ‘safe’ passages in the text.

There could be a high church liturgical account of the meetings of the early Christians, and one that doesn’t mention worship at all, so as to appeal to contemporary evangelicals.

The Book of Revelation could come with alternative sets of charts marked PRE-, A-, and POST-, and perhaps to cover those keen on the idea of Christ’s rule, but not sure of the other options, one marked PRO-. There’s no end to the possibilities this strategy opens up.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Divine flu: a health warning

Ben Myers has a recent post with an excerpt from an article by Kim Fabricius on the dangers of both neo-liberalism and conservative evangelicalism. While some of the critiques of the latter will take some readers of this blog beyond their comfort zone (and I'm not agreeing with all of the comments), it is well worth reflecting on the matters raised. We need to see ourselves as others see us and ask whether we have simply identified an evangelical subculture with revealed truth. 

Friday, 4 September 2009

Visit of Paul Helm

The British philosopher and theologian, Paul Helm, will be giving guest lectures at PTC (77 Shaftesbury Road Burwood, NSW) from 3pm till 5pm on Tuesday 15th September dealing with aspects of

• The age of reason (17th century); 

• The enlightenment (18th century); and

• The appropriation by Luther and Calvin of 16th century philosophy

(or whateveer else he is in the mood for!).

These lectures are open to all at no cost and no registration required. Just turn up.

Paul Helm is Professor in History and Philosophy at Kings College, University of London, and holds the J.I. Packer Chair in Theology and Philosophy, Regent College, Canada.

Amongst numerous other interests, Dr Helm has special expertise in the links between Calvin's thought and its development among Calvinists of the 17th century and is the author of Calvin and the Calvinists, 1982. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Blog Conference on Women in Ministry

Dave has written to let our readers know that over at the Ryde Presbyterian Church site a blog conference on women in ministry has started. The first post, by Peter Barnes (part time lecturer at the PTC) is up.
Future contributors include John McClean and a couple of past PTC students.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Scope of the Atonement

There is an interesting series of posts (here, here, here and here) over at Euangelion on the extent of the atonement, with concise statements of what approximate to three classic views. John McClean and I have both posted comments. 

Saturday, 25 July 2009

What does saving faith do?

Not sure that I can keep a discussion going as long as the last one, but here goes. If you had one shot at saying something about “saving faith,” particularly about its effect, what would it be? The reason I ask is that there is only one passage in the NT which brings those two words together. In fact there’s only one adjectival use of the word soterios “saving.” No peeking at a concordance now, but it would be very useful to come up with our answers, then compare them with the Bible’s. I’ll give you a couple of days to think about it. 

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Is Baptism a Gospel Issue?

I once heard a pastor say that he would not be encouraging a “new convert” to be baptised, since baptism is not a “gospel issue” and he could not add anything to what was presented when he “received Christ” (Col. 2:6). This post flows on from a previous one and the discussion there on how we understand  “the gospel”. I can readily assent to baptism not being a matter which should hinder fellowship when we come to different conclusions about the Biblical evidence. But that is not the same as saying it is not an outworking of the gospel. Yes, Paul, to make a point in the context of a church dispute, can say that he was commissioned “not to baptise, but to proclaim the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17). But to take this as a warrant for indifference to the NT’s mode of identification with Christ would be to outrun the evidence (Paul was baptised and did in fact baptise others, as well as writing on the subject as the occasion suggested). It is baptism which seals our union with Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12) and our incorporation through the Spirit into the one body (1 Cor. 12:13).

Baptism is the initial faith response expected in the discipling task which Jesus entrusted to his followers (Matt. 28:19). Consequently, baptism is right at the forefront of Peter’s proclamation of the gospel on the day of Pentecost. “Repent and be baptised” is his summary of the response he calls for to his message (Acts 2:38). Peter is even bold enough to express the thought that it is baptism which (rightly understood) “saves us” (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the immediate response to Philip’s gospelling (Acts 8:12). In fact, as I read the account of the growth of the early church, I am struck by the constant note of the urgency of baptism; it is not something which should be denied or delayed to any who wish to identify with the Messiah and his new community. This is how the community recognises those who share their faith, those who are joined in a common bond of commitment to him and to one another. Baptism figures in a key list of core unifying principles: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

When we abandon baptism, we substitute other more individualistic and subjective forms of recognition and exclusion. We undermine the unity on which the NT places such a high value. We subvert the gospel.

 

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Useful Resource for OT Background

As my students will know, I am frequently drawing attention to the context within which the Old Testament was written, particularly its literary context. The genres, the imagery, the idioms, even the vocabulary of OT narrative, poetry and prophecy need to be considered in the light of Egyptian, Mesopotamian and other Western Asian and Meditterranean sources. For decades the most accessible compilation of relevant documents was J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET). More recently, the 3 vol. Context of Scripture (COS), ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (which I have electronically in a searchable form): has more recently provided a more up-to-date and more comprehensive collection, with helpful Bible index. What has been lacking is an index from COS to ANET, for the newer anthology doesn’t make the older redundant (not everything is reproduced in COS for a start). This is now remedied by this useful online COS/ANET index.




Saturday, 4 July 2009

AACC - Queensland Theological College Conference - AACC 2010 definitely worth diarising

I was with John Davies at the AACC this week and I heartily agree that it was a worthwhile week. I am planning to return next year.
Most of the sessions were excellent - but for me there were three highlights, all because of their direct practical relevance to my own ministry and life.
First, there was Richard Bauckham's three plenary sessions on the Gospels as Testimony (a summary of his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and then further reflections in the light of critical responses). As a Christian, I found Richard's exploration of the nature of Ancient biography (or 'testimony') very fortifying: I definitely need to get the book and digest his case more thoroughly.
Next there was Greg Clarke's (of Sydney's Centre for Public Christianity) 'after' dinner speech, Taming Your Tongue in Academia. As a teacher at PTC, I was challenged to renew efforts to make my speech and silence at PTC true ministry. I hope this gets published somewhere as it will be worth chewing over more.
Finally, I really 'enjoyed' (if that is the word for it - Ezekiel 16 is very difficult material) seeing Andrew Sloane (who teaches OT and Systematics at Morling College) in full flight as he considered The office of the prophets: Ezekiel 16 in the pulpit. Apart from the excellent content in this paper, Andrew challenged me in three ways. First, to keep on using my Hebrew (his study of Ezekiel 16 just would not have been possible without access to the Masoretic Text as the English versions all excessively sanitise Ezekiel's rhetoric to make it 'readable in Church'). Second, the value of passion in the academy. Andrew is a wonderful communicator and passion is at the heart of his style. This seems very apt for a paper about God's holy passion for an Israel whose very unholy passion had so disgusted God. It seems the sleeve of an academic gown is not such a bad place to wear your heart after all. Thirdly, his paper was pastorally accessible and had immediate practical value for the ordinary preacher. This is something I must work harder at in my papers as I develop my own style in writing and delivering conference papers in coming years.
Two minor beefs about the conference. First I find it objectionable that St Lucia, and QTC are so much prettier than Burwood. What a wonderful site for a theological college!
Second: how does 'Annual Australasian Conference for the Academy and the Church' produce the initials 'AACC'? This drove me just a little bit crazy all week!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

AACC Conference in Brisbane

This post comes from Brisbane where a couple of us from the PTC staff in Sydney are giving papers this week at the grandly titled Annual Australasian Christian Conference for the Academy and the Church. The “Annual” bit is somewhat prophetic, this being the first. It is good to see some increasing opportunities for those teaching Biblical studies (they even let theologians and other Christian scholars into this one) having an opportunity in the antipodes for professional exchange of ideas and stimulus to scholarship and research as well as ministry focused sessions. The keynote speakers at this conference are Richard Bauckham and David Baker. I testify to the fact that I am an eyewitness to Richard’s presentations on the Gospels (and rather daunted by having him in the front row of my NT presentation!) David Baker is speaking about the portrayal of women in the OT and in the background literature.

My paper was on the Greeks who desired to see Jesus in John 12. I ask the question, are these Greeks (unwittingly) following a script laid down for them in the OT and fulfilling second temple expectations? Can we narrow down the text or texts which provide the substructure to John’s narrative? Why does their appearance have such a profound effect upon Jesus? Does this pericope shed light on the Gospel as a whole? 

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Defining the Gospel

There is continuing discussion in Reformed circles about the definition of “gospel” (see e.g. Mike Bird’s useful comments here in the context of a discussion on Piper and Wright). Should such a definition be based narrowly on Rom. 1:3-4? Or should it be broadened to incorporate 1 Cor. 15.3-5?  Should it include the person as well as the work of Christ?

My comment is that the discussion is wrongly framed if we are expecting a virtual definition to be located somewhere in Scripture. Definitions are a linguistic construct based on our knowledge of (in theory) every occurrence of a term. Words mean what they are used by speakers to mean in a range of contexts. The word “gospel” (euangelion) occurs some 76 times in the NT, while the related verb occurs some 54 times, and of course the LXX and early Christian writings provide additional linguistic data. When a given passage says “the gospel is …” or some other formula giving content to the word (as in Romans 1), it does not follow that we have a “definition” or that the nuance in one passage is applicable to others.

I tire of those who want to reduce the gospel to a neat formula, a set of words to be asserted and assented to as though this will cover the rich tapestry that is the Biblical gospel. We suffer from a truncated and impoverished gospel if it ends up looking simply like a get-out-of-jail-free card. I encourage a good concordance study for starters. Even that will not suffice, for a linguistic definition is not the same as a doctrinal formulation. Aspects of the content of what the NT writers meant by their gospel might be found in places where the word is not used.

Popular Christianity tends to work with a “gloss” (different from a definition) on the word gospel = “good news”. While this looks like it has etymological justification, and may appear to fit in some contexts, it is hardly appropriate, e.g. for Rev. 14:6-7 where the “eternal gospel” is one of judgment — not particularly good news for those who experience the judgment. To base a meaning on an apparent etymology is a fallacy which would result in us believing that anthology is the study of flowers.

To understand the word translated “gospel” we need some background in Roman imperial terminology, where a “euangelion” was an official proclamation of the emperor, requiring a response. What the Christian euangelion does is proclaim the rightful lordship of God’s appointed messiah as the one whose appearance and entire ministry, in fulfilment of the script laid down in the Old Testament, demonstrates him to be worthy of our total allegiance, and calls for repentance and a commitment of wholisitic faith. How then is any aspect of the proclamation of the person or work of Christ, or what that should evoke, to be excluded?

Friday, 29 May 2009

Holiness

We all know that ‘holy’ means ‘separate’, right? Well hang on a minute! Despite this being the gloss given in countless sermons, Bible studies, popular Christian writing, and even some heavy dictionaries, where is the evidence for this? I have no doubt that it does have this as an implication, but is this its fundamental meaning? What holiness is really about is ... No, why should I reiterate here what you can read in the latest Reformed Theological Review?
Congratulations, by the way, to the editors of RTR for the new look and expanded journal with four or five articles plus reviews from mainly Australian biblical scholars and theologians.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

James Le Fanu, Why Us?


James Le Fanu
Why us? : how science rediscovered the mystery of ourselves
Hammersmith, London. Harper Press, 2009
xv + 303 pp. ; ISBN 9780007120277; Hardcover RRP $45.00

James Le Fanu is a London based medical practitioner (since 1974), a published author (since 1986), and a regular journalist (since 1992).

He has written an excellent work here, not so much entering the already over-stocked field of “Christianity v. Science” or “Creation v. Evolution” type of book, but actually penning a fact-filled exploration of what science has NOT been able to answer, despite all of its advances. In fact, this is not a “Christian” book at all, but rather an exploration of the power and limits of science to penetrate the deep mysteries of existence, challenging the certainty that Darwin’s Origin of Species seemed to provide, that we are no more than the fortuitous consequence of a materialist, evolutionary, process.

Le Fanu sees the challenge arising, unexpectedly, from the two major projects that promised to provide definitive proof for this most influential of theories: the astonishing achievement of the Human Genome Project which, it was anticipated, would identify the genetic basis of all human distinguishing characteristics; and, the phenomenal advance in brain imaging that now permits neuro-scientists to observe the brain ‘in action’ and thus account for the remarkable properties of the human mind.

But that, he says, is not how it has turned out! It is simply not possible, he states, to get from the monotonous sequence of genes in the Double Helix to the near infinite diversity of the living world. Nor to translate the electrical firing of the brain into the creativity of the human mind.

This is not a matter, he assures us, of not knowing all the facts, but rather science has inadvertently discovered that its theories are insufficient to conjure the wonder of the human experience from the bare bones of our genes and brains. The brain, it seems, may now be thought to not actually contain the mind, so much as the ‘mind’ may contain the brain.

He finishes with a prediction of a major shift in our understanding of ourselves that will witness the eclipse of Darwin’s materialist evolutionary theory and the rediscovery of the idea that there ‘is more than we can know’.

Hopefully good Christian apologists will be at hand when science gets to this point, and can introduce Christian truths of our God and His creation into their debate.

An excellent and very honest overview of scientific advances and the claims that can no longer (and, possibly, never could) be explained by the available facts.

More on the church of Scotland

In my last post I asked what happens next in the Church of Scotland after the decision to uphold the induction of minister who is a practicing homosexual? What will the evangelicals do?

Here are some hints.

Willie Philips of the Tron Glasgow announced the decision to his congregation the next morning. He speaks with impressive calm and resolve and then leads the congregation in prayer. He deplores the precedent which the Church of Scotland has set. He says that they will not recognise the authority of a church court to call holy that which God has called sin. He affirms his love for Christians who struggle with homosexuality.

He also explains why they are not going to leave the Church of Scotland and gives two reasons. One reason is that they would lose an opportunity to proclaim the gospel from the building in the centre of the Glasgow. That is a claim that has some merit. I can understand that their ministry would be impaired by losing their building and their status as a congregation of the Church of Scotland. Though I wonder if it is already impaired by being part of a denomination which has moved so far from the truth.

More interesting is his claim that "the denomination is not the church". That is a theological issue which the evangelicals in the Church of Scotland will have to wrestle with. It is certainly not a classic Presbyterian view. I'd agree with him that the visible church is fundamentally congregational, but I don't think that the questions they face can be resolved simply by saying that wider denominational structures are not the church. Later on in the statement he asks the congregation to pray for the churches in the Presbytery of Aberdeen whose position is more difficult than that of the church in Glasgow. Perhaps he means that their problem is simply 'political', but it sounds as if he thinks they have a 'theological' problem. I am not sure why the problem arises at Presbytery level but not at the level of the whole church of Scotland.

He announces that there will not be an offering that Sunday since that would be an expression of fellowship with churches with which they can no longer be in fellowship. He says that the central church authorities take a percentage and I'm sure he said 80%! He says that the session will be considering further steps in the next few weeks. I assume that withholding funds is going to be a major way of protesting.

He also warns the congregation that they can expect to be criticised and mocked in the media. In the Scotsman article reporting the decision the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland was quoted as being "delighted" with the decision. Alyson Thomson, head of communications for the Commission described the Church of Scotland as "a modern church for a modern Scotland" which had "decided that the values of fairness, equality, dignity and respect are of more worth than those of ignorance and intolerance." So the evangelicals know where they stand in the public discourse, they are committed to "ignorance and intolerance". It underlines how out of step the evangelicals are with their socety (or at least the elites) over this issue. I'm sure there will be more to come along these lines. (I have trouble imagining an Australian government authority making a statement like this about a church decision, but perhaps I am being naieve!)

David Meredith suggests that the way forward would be for evangelicals to join the Free Church and for the Free Church to make accommodation in its worship for that.

The position in which the evangelicals in the Church of Scotland find themselves is very difficult. Let's keep praying for them and asking the Lord to give them immense wisdom and courage.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Another step in long slow decline

News has just come through that the Assembly of the Church of Scotland has not upheld the appeal against the induction of Reverend Scott Rennie into a charge in Aberdeen. Rennie is openly living in a homosexual relationship. The Fellowship of Confessing Churches in the CoS has been outspoken in its opposition. But the Assembly has endorsed the decision of the Presbytery to go ahead with the induction.

Carl Trueman has a point when he wonders why homosexuality is the line in the sand. However we on the other side of the world can't say too much about the strategy of our brothers and sisters in Scotland, since we aren't directly part of the battle. Now we can grieve with them that the Church which has its Reformation origin in a bold declaration of the truth takes yet another step away from the truth. The church historians can debate how long the decline has been continuing, I guess it goes back into the 18th century at least. The Presbyterian Church of Australian followed the example of the CoS for many years in the colonial period and much of the 20th century. I'm glad that we no longer do.

I wonder what happens next?

More importantly what should we pray for the Church of Scotland now?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

New Principal Nominated

Yesterday afternoon Robert Benn, the convener of the Theological Education Committee which governs the PTC as a committee of the Presbyterian Church of NSW (all a bit complicated!!) released the following announcement.

"During recent months the Theological Education Committee of the NSW Assembly has carefully considered several applicants for the position of Principal of the PTC to commence on 1st January 2010.

Rev Dr John Davies, who has served the denomination as Dean and Principal for 23 years advised the Committee of his intention not to seek reappointment as Principal, although the Committee hopes that he may continue to serve the PTC in other roles.

It is our pleasure to announce that the vice-principal, Rev. Dr Ian Smith BA, Dip Ed, MEd, MTh, PhD will be recommended for principalship to the NSW Assembly in July. Ian brings qualities, qualifications and experience to lead the PTC forward to a new era. He has had significant pastoral experience, has served as missionary in Vanuatu, has been a lecturer at the PTC for 14 years and has been Acting Principal at the PTC on three occasions. The Committee warmly commends Ian to the Church.

Rev Robert Benn
Convener of the TEC."

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The book that had to be written!

In the PTC library the other day I picked up a new book: Power and Poverty by Dewi Hughes. It brings together two very disparate themes. The front cover tells you that it is about global poverty. But the table of contents is redemptive historical and shouts "biblical theology". The structure is what you might expect in a biblical theology - Genesis 1-11, Abraham, government in Israel, laws in the Mosaic covenant; Christ as ruler, teacher and judge, the gift of the Spirit; and then the church and its place in God's world. Books on Biblical theology often show the rich thematic connections in Scripture, but do not have a strong connection with ethics, espcially social ethics. There are exceptions to this in the work Brian Rosner, Craig Blomberg, Tim Chester and Chris Wright.

Hughes continues in the trajectory of Chris Wright, and looks at the theme of power and poverty in the Bible. Often studies of those themes are entirley focussed on social ethics and do not relate the themes to wider redemptive history. Hughes does this well. Not only does he look at the social ethics of the Old Testament he relates that to God's purpose for Israel, and considers Israel in its biblical-theological position. More than that he traces these themes into the New Testament through Christology and then into the church.

Hughes makes the case that poverty and injustice are Biblical concerns and are not impositions from an illict political perspective. I went through a stage when I thought that a faithful Christian had to be apolitical, but over time I kept noticing that so many passages demand that we should take notice of political issues. That does not mean taking strong views in party politics, but it does mean a concern for justice and care for the poor. I've also seen more and more of that Christian social ethics has to come through the church. The church must be a community of justice and mercy. When it is this it is a witness to the world of what it should be, an anticipation of the new creation and a centre from which justice and mercy may flow. I've seen this, not by moving away from Biblical Theology, but by reflecting on the Bible as it present redemptive history. It is exciting to read Hughes making this case so well.

Hughes does not claim that Power and Poverty answers the practical questions of addressing poverty. What he aims to do is to show that Bible believing Christians have to be concerned about it, and that the Bible gives us very important perspectives on global political issues.

Hughes is the Theological Advisor for Tearfund in the UK and a member of The Lausanne Movement's Theology Working Group.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The danger of public theology

There's lots of talk about Public Theology. But it gets a whole lot harder when you actually have to do it in public. This morning Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby was on Sunrise with "Mel and Kochie" talking about gay marriage. On the other side were Peter Furness from Australian Marriage Equality and his long term partner Theo Phillip. You can watch the video here.

Jim began with the argument that this could be extended to allow someone to marry their cat. That seemed like bad move. First of all it is a reductio ad absurdum, and that is usually a weak argument. More importantly it sounded as if he was saying that homosexuality was equivalent to beastiality: and that didn't seem a great opening line! His next argument was that the gay lobby was trying to make the lifestyle of 1.2% of the population to be 'normative'. I don't think this worked, since they are not trying to make gay marriage 'normative' but allowable. Finally he argued that heterosexual marriages are more stable and therefore better for children (I think that was the argument it got a bit messy at this point). That was a complicated argument to run on breakfast TV, and Kochie thought he was saying that homosexual couples would abuse children (or least that's what he said he thought Jim was saying, which raised the temperature of the debate nicely!)

So Jim's argument seemed thin. Not suprisingly so since he had to argue about consequences, when the real difference between the two views is a view of what is according to nature, and what role nature (i.e. created order) has in deciding how we should act. Jim raised that issue slightly, talking about what was "natural", but the argument was not clear.

Jim's best argument was that our society regularly restricts the rights of some people (e.g. smokers). But that doesn't explain to people why the right to marry should be restricted to heterosexual couples.

The interchange showed how hard it is for Christians to make positive arguments in the public square. That doesn't mean we shouldn't work at it. I don't know what I would have said if I was in Jim's role. I know that I don't want Australia to have legal gay marriages and I know why I don't want that. The reasons don't make sense apart from my Christian commitments. Conclusion - more worked needed on this issue from ACL and any other Christians who want to try the argument in the media.

There is a blog on the Chanel Seven site with lots of comments.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A proverb for students (and teachers)

Ever left a lecture or a sermon thinking how brilliant the speaker was, but still not entirely clear what it was all about, perhaps even more confused than before? Or have you been in a Q&A in which the questions were really a chance for people to show off how much they knew.

Proverbs 18:2 rings too true in the world of academia. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion.” (NRSV). Understanding takes humility and patience. You have to be ready to learn from the object of study and let it set the terms; and also be ready to learn from others. None of that appeals to the fool,.

One of my pet peeves is how quickly people (and I’m talking about orthodox evangelicals here) make sweeping dismissals of classical expressions of theology, without making the effort to actually understand what was said and why. But I didn't write this post to air that "peeve", I read Proverbs 18:2 and saw that it warned me. Maybe its a warning you need as well.

Pursuing understanding is a challenge in all study and teaching, but specially in theology. How awful to turn theology – the study of God – into self-expression rather than quiet, humble, disciplined attention to God himself. Some theological approaches collapse theology into anthropology or into clever word games. However even when we say theology is the "science of God" and that theological statements have a genuine reference to a God we can still be fools. (I'll leave the discussion of how theological statements refer to another day).

Is reading, thinking, writing,and teaching all about you or about what (and who) you are studying?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Twitter in church

This morning Eugene had a tweet about twitter in church linking to an article in Time magazine about pastors encouraging their congregations to tweet during church!

Bizarrely enough it's something I've been thinking about. It is easy to sit with your mobile in hand (on silent of course) and send a few messages. I'm not admitting to doing it, because I don't think I have, but I've certainly thought about it. Students do it via laptop in lectures (I know they do, because sometimes they send me emails). It can be a way of people connecting with each other and with the 'experience'. Yet is is "virtuous", is it being the kind of people we want to be? Maybe there is a place for sitting and listening without having to publish a response?

I am struck by the contrast with the instruction in the Westminster Directory of Public Worship (1645) which tells worshipers that "The publick worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God."

It is a very different world. But maybe there is some wisdom in the Directory. What do you think?

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Get to know the classics - Luther


Martin Luther is one of the great Christian thinkers of all time and very important in the history of the Protestant churches. This Monday night (4th May) at Get to Know the Classics Mark Glanville will introduce us to Luther and his book Bondage of the Will. In it Luther takes on Erasmus over the question of God's sovereign grace in redemption. We meet Luther in full flight, showing his theological insight and his argumentative flair.

Get to Know the Classics is held once a month 7:30-9:00pm on a Monday evening at Presbyterian Theological Centre.

Monday, 27 April 2009

An enigmatic life - David Broughton Knox

This 2005 biography of (David) Broughton Knox has been my weekend reading. He was Principal of Moore (Theological) College from 1959-1985 and led it to from being a fairly parochial institution to being on the way to becoming the highly influential college it is now.

Brian Edgars review from Journal of Anglican Studies Vol. 6(1) 127-28 can be found here.

If you, like me, live with his influence, then you should read this book. For my self I am a Moore graduate from 1995, and living in Sydney and working in the evangelical scene the influence of Moore is widespread. Just take the example of theological education in Sydney. As well as Moore itself three of the four staff at PTC are Moore graduates, as are the Principal and several staff of SMBC and several of the staff at Morling College. Some of these were directly students of DBK, others of us have been taught by people who were profoundly shaped by him and by the college he lead.

Students and graduates of PTC would benefit from reading this and getting a historical prespective on DBK and Moore. I was surprised at the relative lack of formal study in theology he had himself, he had a D Phil in Historical Theology but his own undergradaute 'seminary' experience at St John's Higbury was very poor. The English Reformers were his main point of reference. For instance he did not start reading Calvin's Institutes until after he had finished his BD.

Much of DBK's life was filled with controversy and conflict. Some of the key conflicts were with Liberalism and Anglo-catholicism and it is claimed that he thought of MTC as being "Protestant and not Anglican". This shaped his theology.

The discussion of Knox's teaching shows his great ability to teach a way of thinking about theology without giving a great deal of content. He was committed to the scripture principle and tried to get students to engage with the Bible rather than to build on the thought of other writers. This is a great strength in many ways, though it seems as if many of his students interviewed for the book thought that a bit more interaction with others would have improved his teaching.

I was surprised at the level of conflict he had with the Diocese during his time as Principal. This was the most enlightening part of the book for me. I did MTS with Philip Jensen at UNSW from 1988-1991 and then was at MTC 1992-1995. During that time there was a fair bit of conflict still going on, and I'm sure I was only aware of a small part of it. Reading this helped me see where some of that conflict came from.

The piety of DBK's background and own life are impressive; as is his commitment to ministry and church life. This is part of the "enigma" of DBK. For his theology could seem highly 'intellectualist' and yet he had a quite piety. He taught about the importance of "fellowship", "friendship" and "relationship"; yet seems to have been somewhat awkward and prone to fights; however there were many people who knew him as gentle and compassionate.

There is much to thank God for in the life of DBK. For those of us who never knew him, it is worth reading this book to understand more about him and his influence.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The problem of "translation"

There was a strange story in Sydney Morning Herald yesterday about Manly local council honouring the artist Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo with an exhibition and website. On the website his self portrait has been edited to remove the cigarette from his mouth in line with the councils anti-smoking policy. (See the pictures at the right).

The story doesn't explain exactly how the picture contravenes the policy, in fact it says that the instruction had been to remove the whole painting! This story seems ridiculously extreme, but it is a real problem. How do you present something from one culture in another one in which some aspects of it will clash?

I remember being at a production of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" in which the "comedy" had members of the audience on their feet booing its misogyny. Do we change the play so it is a comedy for us, or do we try to explain to people how it would have worked, or do we just let them boo?

We sometimes struggle with the same kind of issues in translating the Bible. How much do we tidy it up for contemporary audiences? Do we get rid of gendered language? How about expressions that seem crude to us? (On that compare 1 Sam 25:22,34 in the King James and the NIV.) What about terms that might seem confusing for us, such as 'flesh' (Gk: sarx) which most modern translations will now translate as "sinful nature" (e.g. Romans 7:5,18,25).

There is a bad argument for moving to gender nuetral language (people are offended by gender specific language) and a good argument (people actually don't get gender specific language). But of course it isn't as simple as those two arguements make it sound.

Have you got good, bad or amusing examples of the problems of translation between cultures?

Monday, 20 April 2009

"Big" mission startegies?


Skye Jethani applies the theology of the cross (see Carl Trueman's summary ) to church strategy. There is a place for strategies, probably even for big ones, but we must never think that we change the world by them. When we do gain the final perspective on God's providence no doubt we shall see that the key events have been as apparently unimpressive as the cross. Faithfulness is the key.

Looks like an interesting book.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Proverbs and ministry

The book of proverbs may have been composed to train young men in the court. Kings certainly need wisdom to rule well (Prov 8:15). I imagine the emerging leaders of Israel working through the sayings of Solomon and preparing for their future roles. That makes me think that one fruitful way to use the proverbs is to relate them to leadership in the people of God. In the past of toyed with a project which explored Proverbs as ministry wisdom and I thought I’d give it a try here and see how it works.

I read Proverbs 14 on the train this morning, so that I where I am going to start.

Three themes in the chapter strike me as connecting with ministry.

The first is the value of wisdom. The chapter opens with a vivid image. On one block of ground a wise woman carefully places brick on brick constructing a home (presumably an unusual task for a women in ancient Israel). Her next door neighbour already has a lovely house, which she is determinedly demolishing. (Prov 14:1 cf v11). Of course fools don’t realise what they are doing. You’ve seen it in lives and families and probably in churches. Pastors are to build for Christ, and there are terrible warnings for those who destroy his church (1 Cor 3:10-17). Pastors and elders need to take extra care that they gain wisdom and act wisely. Wisdom bring protection, folly brings a beating (14:3); folly is gullible, wisdom is discerning (14:15).

The rash action, the thoughtless word, the inability to see how our actions hurt others, fights for my preferences and my preferred styles; time wasted on the unimportant while a ministry runs to seed, these are some of the actions of the foolish pastor. Inevitably there is pain for the pastor, and worse the Lord’s church is torn apart, rather than built up. On the other hand it is a great joy to see a humble, godly, united ministry team building a church under the Lord.

How do we get ministry wisdom? It is a gift of the Spirit, so pray for it. It is the invitation of Proverbs (1:2-7), so go there. If this project extends beyond this post it might help you find wisdom in the Proverbs.

Ch 14 gives one key step to wisdom: stop and think about it. 14:8 says the wise and prudent “give thought to their ways”. That seems to be a result of being wise, that you understand what you are doing, but it is also a path to wisdom. Want to be a wise pastor? Stop and think! Turn over your situation and your plans in your mind, ponder them, and don’t just shoot from the hip. Be aware of what are the big decisions and prayerfully think them through. Even if you have the right to make them alone, don’t; take counsel. Strive to understand what you are doing. 14:16 says the fool is “hotheaded and reckless”. The art of counting to 10, of not sending the email straight away, of not keeping a count of wrongs but letting things go; all of this is at the heart of pastoral wisdom. Wise pastors are reflective.

The second theme that catches my eye is the need for hard work. I have Proverbs 14:4 on notice board of my office “where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.” Though the version I’ve used translates empty as clean, and I think that is the point. If you want everything nice and neat don’t get any work done, but if you want a harvest that takes work and work makes mess. 14:23 reinforces the fact that results require effort. There is a time to sit around and reflect to plan and understand –then there needs to be effort. I can remember several meetings I’ve been in, in which resolutions were made but nothing was done. Any growth, any results, any harvest will come from God’s hand, but will also take effort. Do not bemoan how unresponsive people are to the gospel, unless you are making clear and realistic efforts to proclaim the gospel. So get to work, and remember that work will make mess.

The third theme is found in two achingly beautiful the proverbs about the hidden depths of the inner life. Ministry is about people. So ministry wisdom means knowing something about ourselves and others. Sometime the experience of ministry promotes a deception that we have direct access to other people’s experience. We don’t. A lot of what who we are is known only to us and God (or only to God). So remember that “each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (14:10). As you talk and share with people, you don’t really know what is going on for them; nor they for you. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to understand, but remember that there will always be depths of the inner life which will not and cannot be shared.

14:13 reminds us of the enigma of human experience: “even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief”. Maybe the best thing to do with this proverb is simply to recognise how true it is. Until God wipes every tear from our eyes there will always be sorrow. That’s good to remember that when leading worship. Joy is not the only Christian experience, or even the main one. Lets have joy, but also allow for lament, because it will come. For more on this see Carl Trueman’s great piece “What can miserable Christian’s sing?” which you can find here.

Friday, 10 April 2009

When did this happen?

There comes a point when something we are totally immersed in changes; yet we have been so immersed that we have not noticed the change. Parents experience it with children - they wake up one day and realise that their kids are adults, and they ask themselves, When did this happen?

This week I have enjoyed being at the Discendi Studio conference at PTC Sydney - a conference organised by the three theological colleges of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. I have had the "When did this happen?" experience several times. It happened when I listened to a theological student or recent graduate deliver a scholarly paper, and I had to remind myself that I was not at an international scholarly conference. It happened when I heard students and graduates wrestle with issues of ministry practice with a level of maturity and an ability to integrate several disciplines to the issues. It happened when I listened to the warm camaraderie between lecturers in the respective colleges, seeking to work together to do the task of theological college even better. It happened in the warmth of fellowship experienced. I have come away from the conference with great gratitude for what God has done in our midst and great optimism for the future. When did this happen? I guess it's been happening for a few decades now - slowly and steadily - but there's no doubt that theological education in the Presbyterian Church of Australia is coming of age.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Discendi Studio

Today we wrap up Discendi Studio the theology conference supported by the three Presbyterian Colleges in Australia. The title means "zeal to learn" and comes from a line from Calvin's Institutes. The theme has been "Calvin and theological scholarship" and we've had some great examples of just that. Some of the papers have been Calvin Scholarship - such as Calvin and the Jews, or Calvin as a commentator. Others have looked at historical issues such as the rise of Calvinism in Australia (1938-78) or various theological and Biblical topics with some interaction with Calvin. One of the highlights of the conference have been the short papers which students and others have done. The genre of a 20-25 minute brings as brevity and clarity which Calvin would have appluaded.

It has been great seeing students, staff and others from different states getting to know each other, talking through issues and finding out about the state of play in different states. I hope that people will stay in touch.

The presentations have been recorded and they should be available in some form (watch this space).

Monday, 30 March 2009

Justice in the city

I just opened the envelope with the latest copy of CASE magazine. I was quick to open it because it has an article Mark Glanville (a PTC graduate) and I wrote on "Justice in the city". It isn't about batman (we aren't that cool - we'll I'm not).

We look at how the city highlights issues of justice and intensifies the challenges and argue that the evangelical church can not leave this issue to the "liberals" while we get on with mission. A concern for justice (not simply charity) has to be part of the scope of our part in God's mission.

We use the Ten Commandments to sketch out what justice should look like, because any account of justice is always grounded in an anthropology. Justice can't be just "treating everyone the same", it has to have some goal. Even if we have an "autonomous ethic" and we let people choose their own story, that comes from a view of human nature (a view which says human nature is does not exist or at least has no goal).

You can't read the article on-line. You'll have to subcribe (which you can do here) or you might be able to find it in your local theological library. You'll find a copy in PTC library.

Monday, 23 March 2009

A Timely look at Calvinism


Time magazine
has nominated the resurgence of Calvinism as one of the top ten ideas changing the world right now. While the essay may not be altogether flattering to those who stand in the legacy of John Calvin, it acknowledges the Reformed faith as a cultural force to be reckoned with in Christian circles and (at least in a north American context) to be noticed more widely.
Our own conference coming up on the debt we owe to this remarkable exponent of the Christian faith is not an exercise in irrelevance, but a Timely event.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

How students suffer at PTC


Some lecturers at PTC are so cruel. Any one who has spare Arctic gear please send it to the Greek class.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Missional chemistry

Eugene Hor comments on a trend in the US to move to smaller churches as part of becoming more engaged in the mission of God. It makes sense, and fits with something I've thought for a long time. Years ago when I did chemistry I learned that one of the key variables which increases the rate of reaction is the surface area. So if a solid is reacting with a liquid it will all happen faster if the solid is broken up into a powder than if it sits in a single lump. In ministry it is often better to have a lot of little things happening than having it all happen at one place.

It is a common claim (which I assume is right) that churches are most likely to be in effective contact with their communities when they are a new church plant. So constantly spinning off new churches can keep evangelistic momentum. Also in a smaller church it is more likely that more people will be called on to use their gifts and people are more likely to be in the kind of person to person relationships in which they will care for each other and mature together. (Of course it is only 'more likely' a small church can be just as unhealthy as a large one, and being small can be a symptom of being unhealthy).

Increasing surface area for ministry can be a challenge. A church of 70 adults might manage to support a pastor and have a few good musos and a small children's ministry and see a few people becoming Christians each year. It can be a lot more exciting to go to a church of 700+ with several specialised staff and great music team and cradle to the grave programs that meet all your "needs". More exciting, but it is unlikely that you will get ten times more "ministry" happening, though there might be hundred times more "buzz". Being a pastor for a smaller church doesn't feed the ego as well as leading a big church. Lots of small churches can be harder for a denomination to "control" and service. So there are lots of reasons why we might think bigger is better, but I suspect it isn't so.

I would also add that "spinning off" new churches has to be done with genuine mission motivation. It can not be simply a way to move off a group of people who don't quite fit the "sending church". That will do no good for the sending church nor the new church and will simply show our lovelessness. So I am not suggesting "homogenity" as the main feature of new small churches.

Of course there can be a "critical mass" needed (though that changes the metaphor to nuclear fission!). Churches working deliberately working together can provide that.

Missional chemistry is a reason to keep starting new churches, with the aim of keeping them small. It is a Kingdom strategy, not an empire one.

It might seem strange in denomination of mainly small churches to bother making this case. However I think that the PCNSW often longs to have big churches, while letting our smaller churches feel a bit second rate. It's time to help smaller churches see that they can be right in the middle of mission.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Commencement and Graduation

Last night we had our annual Commencement and Graduation. It was great night. We welcomed lots of new students (John Davies told us that there had been a 17% increase in enrollments and it certainly feels like that). Here is a shot of the new students being welcomed.

We graduated our first Doctoral Student, Max Gilbert (below) who wrote a thesis on Jesus claim to divinity in his use of Ps 110:1; and David Balzer who teaches NT recieved his MTh for a thesis on temple in John's Gospel.

People graduated with other awards as well. Hamdy Awad and Roland Lowther with MA (Theology); Cornelius Nel, Joel Radford and Ian Stenhouse with MDiv; Clare Aroney, Robert Aroney, Karen Astles and Virginia Fay with Grad Dip of Div; Brett Graham with BTh (1st class honours) and Matthew Hong, Jimmy Liang and George Medvedsky with BTh; Steve Pym and Russell Smidt with Advanced Dip Theol and Farid Awad and Jillian Patterson with Cert Theol. Stephen Gould, Russell Smidt, Brett Graham, Ian Stenhouse, Kyou Hong, David Yu and Steve Pym also recieved our Diploma of Theological Studies which is the academic qualification for ordination. Congratulations to everyone for all the hard work that these awards represent. We are excitied about the prospects for service of Christ which all our graduates are taking up.

We also had a wonderful version of "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" from our student ensemble put together for the the evening. I think this should not be their only gig. Here is a shot of the singers.

The evening finished with a excellent address by Sandy Macmillan (minister of the church in South Wagga Wagga). Sandy took us to Ps 67 and challanged us to thank God for his blessings and aim for his glory. Great words for a graduation.

Out Of The Mouth Of A Babe


As I was racing around getting ready this morning, my four year old son Joshua said to me "Mamma, my Alex the Lion toy (a character from the movie Madagascar) is broken.  His tail's come off."  I sympathised but that wasn't the reaction he wanted.  So he said "But Mamma, he's broken, so I have to throw him away and get a new one."  I knew how hard it had been to buy the toy so I said "Well Joshie, have you thought of looking after him even if he doesn't have a tail anymore?  Maybe you could love him even though he's broken?"  I could see the cogs spinning in his brain and after a little time of silence he said "OK. I'll do that.  'Cause that's what Jesus does with me.   He loves me even when I'm naughty."  I couldn't have said it better myself!  How I love it when my children teach me about God's gracious promises.   "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ..."  (Romans 8:1) and "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."  (Romans 8:33-34).  

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Get to know the classics - Augustine

The outline from my talk on Augustine and the audio are available now at PTC online. The reading for Anselm will be there in the next few days. Murray Smith will introduce Anselm on April 6. See lots of you there.

Friday, 6 March 2009

While I Wait ...

I hate waiting - ok well, maybe "hate" is too strong a word. But I don't like it much.  I think waiting means 'nothing to do'. Boring!  So wherever I go, I take stuff with me to do in case I need to wait. I take my diary to catch up on my "to do" lists. I take a book (lately it's been Cosa Nostra - A History Of The Sicilian Mafia by John Dickie or Feminine Appeal - Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney).  At the very least, I make sure I have chewing gum with me so I can chew out my frustration at having to wait!

Yesterday, while reading my Bible, God showed me that there are some great things we can do while we wait for Jesus to return.  For the Christian, waiting is not 'nothing to do' time.  And it's all got to do with verbs - doing words.  In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul praises the church because:

• the word of the Lord has sounded forth from them in Macedonia and Achaia (verse 8);
• (and even more than that), their faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy need not say anything (verse 8);
• they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (verse 9).

The Thessalonians were doing all of this while they waited for God's Son from heaven (verse 10) - the very Son whom God raised from the dead - Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  I was struck.  Waiting is not such a bad thing.  Like the Thessalonian Christians, while I wait for Jesus to return, I can sound forth the word of the Lord, I can make sure that my faith in Jesus goes forth everywhere and I can continue to turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God - and all this, while I wait for God's Son to return.  A new perspective on waiting.  Thank you God.
P.S. I have been using The Daily Reading Bible, volume 12 by Matthias Media.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Wisdom, Glory and Virtue in Colossians.


I've recently listened to these talks by N.T. Wright given at the IVF USA "Following Christ" Conference. They are gold. He gives a great example of reading the Bible in context and applying it to our thinking and living. He paints a big picture of God's work in Christ so powerfully and shows how it comes from Paul's theology specially in Colossians. The conference is for emerging academics, and he has some perinent applications for them.

Listen, it will be good for mind and heart.

If you are someone who disagrees with "Tom" on things, I'll be interested to know what you disagree about from these talks. Let me know if you do.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Augustine's best prayer?

Tomorrow night I am presenting an introduction to Augustine's Confessions at Get to know the Classics. It is a wonderful book and as I've been preparing I've been tempted just to read great slabs of Augustine's poetic prayer. I won't do that, I'll give some background and orientation which helps people read Confessions for themselves. I will, however, quote these wonderful words which are a summary of Augustine's reflection on his life in Book X. It captures his Christian theistic worldview in its Neoplatonic expression, his view of sin and his wonder at God's grace. Is it his best prayer? It certainly beats "Give me continence but not yet"!

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved
you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ministry Training for Women - begins!


Yesterday our Ministry Training for Women (MTW) program got started. It was exciting to have about 35 women enrolled. Some of the students are already students here or are married to students, others come from churches all around Sydney. The morning seemed to have gone well and everyone enjoyed it. The picture shows everyone still smiling at the end of the morning. MTW will meet 9 more times this year. In the mean time students are thinking about who they will find to be a mentor for them.

Equip Women's conference

Carmelina Read, our Dean of Women, is part of the organising committee for the Equip Women's conference. It seems like a great conference (not that I've actually been invited). It happens in May this year and is looking at the fascinating book of Esther. Carmelina might like to tell us a bit more about it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Get to know the classics - Athanasius and Augustine

The PTC Blog has been quiet - apart from Peter's interesting discussion of metaphor. It's been quiet as a Presbyterian church during the collection. I'm sure someone can come up with something better than that.

We held our first Get to Know the Classics back at the beginning of February. It was a great evening and the room was packed full. I promised to make the recording available but it has taken me a while to work out the best way to do that. It is now available at PTConline . You will need to register on the site and then you can access the Get the Know the Classics section and find the notes from Peter Barnes and the recording. I've also put a copy of the reading for Augustine.

Get to know the classics is on again next Monday night and I'll be introducing Augustine's Confessions.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Flourish - women's ministry conference

It has been very quite on the PTC blog since we've been busy finishing up the the year and then been on leave. In fact I'm embarrassed to see that the last post was almost 2 months ago!

As the new academic year starts comes closer I hope we will get a bit more active.

I'd like to point you to the website for Flourish, a national conference on women's ministry for the Presbyterian Church of Australia. I am on the committee and I think it will be a great conference. Too often in the last 20 years women's ministry has been a topic of controversy in the PCA. We hope this conference will encourage women to be active in their lives to serve the Lord, and help churches find ways of helping women flourish.

There is also a facebook group.