Good news and the recession

Dr Vinoth Ramachandra

At a time when “everyone” is tightening their belts, or having real trouble finding a job, when European nations are near bankruptcy and the people in most less affluent parts of the world have to wonder where the money to pay basic medical expenses will be found, it is “nice” to hear some “good news”.

Apparently just like the bankers whose stupidity caused the recession the top executives of big businesses (major beneficiaries of the largess that governments have had to dole out as they have sought to stem the bleeding) are not being stinted by stingy boards. A recent study (HT: Chuck Jones) shows “that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million. That works out to a 23 percent gain from 2009.”

Now, all of you Materialist Capitalists who believe that unfettered capitalism is the best way to organise society for the good of all (or claim to, for perhaps it is all a “big lie”) can you explain this? How are such obscene salaries “justified” in the face of the European worker on the dole, or the Asian mother who cannot afford the treatment her child needs, or the African parents who can even feed theirs.

So, all you good Atheists (Christians to a man, yet unless the market is your god, to believe that somehow the free flow of capital will make things well is surely an atheist belief) who ran to support The Income of Ralph Norris when Mark Keown posted about that wrong, how will you defend this one?

Meanwhile Vinoth Ramachandra1 is more optimistic, he imagines Christians across the Western World taking to the streets in Direct Democracy like the rather braver Muslims across the Arab world have been doing.

Fat chance, the principalities and powers that rule this age are too good at the bread and circuses routine. As long as the dupes have cheap food (and what does it matter to us if farmers in the rest of the globe get ripped off as long as our supermarket prices stay low) and “reality TV” what chance is there anyone will seriously challenge the powers of this dark world?

  1. His blog describes him thus: “Dr Vinoth Ramachandra was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he also had his secondary schooling. He holds bachelors and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. Instead of pursuing an academic career, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1980 and helped to develop a Christian university ministry in that country. In 1987 he was invited to serve as the South Asian Regional Secretary for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).” []

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A workman worthy of their wages, or a monstrous blasphemy?

Is he? Or is the heart of Hillsong a monstrous blasphemy?

A few days ago Mark Keown posted on The Income of Ralph Norris which generated lively debate, on Facebook though not on his blog. (Has FaceBook, just as the press is reporting users leaving in droves, ironically taken over from blogs as the locus of in/semi-formal discussion?) What galled Mark, and many others, is a huge salary being paid to a Bank CEO at a time when banks are seen as failing institutions gouging the less well-off to make money for the rich.

There is no debate, from Mark, or his commenters, that the notion of a worker being worthy of their wages is not only biblical but good and right. What is being questioned in that case is the scale of the wages (Tens of millions seems excessive by most people’s standards!) and the nature of the society (for banks do seem to epitomise Western capitalist societies). I’ll quote one line from Mark’s conclusion before moving on to the church:

Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, our culture serves money.

Now to another salary… a student in my prophet’s class pointed this one out. The Hillsong site contains Bobbie’s and My Finances… A letter from Brian Houston. This letter, dated last year1 reveals that Brian and Bobbie Houston earn roughly Au$300,000 plus a few perks like cars and homes and things. Roughly half comes from a trust they set up to manage their ministry activities beyond Hillsong, and roughly half from Hillsong.

The letter seeks to convince its readers that this is right and proper. I’ll again quote a one liner that perhaps sums up what I heard in the tone of Brian’s letter:

We are blessed and I would want the same for anyone else in our position and stage of life.

Is he right? Is this huge salary indeed God’s blessing on a good and faithful servant? Is it what other good and faithful servants at his stage of life who are blessed to pastor huge churches deserve?

Or is this a blasphemy against the Lord Brian Houston claims to proclaim?

I know where I stand, but then my salary is in the top 10% worldwide, and so is that of most2 readers of this blog…

Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, our culture serves money.

  1. So, of course, it may be out of date. []
  2. Except those who have temporarily dropped their earnings to study or for other reasons. []

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Two biblical studies teaching posts

Two Exciting Opportunities in Biblical Studies

Lecturer in Old Testament
Lecturer in New Testament

This is an exciting opportunity to be involved in the on-going development and shaping of Biblical studies at Carey Baptist College.

After 19 outstanding years of teaching, our Lecturer in Old Testament Studies is to retire at the end of 2011. Our current Lecturer in New Testament is to move into a new role at Carey focusing on contemporary mission research, teaching, and training.

We are therefore looking for a specialist in Old Testament, and a specialist in New Testament, to join our teaching team of eight, and a community of more than 150 ‘full time equivalent’ students. Normally the appointees will have a PhD in a relevant field.

At Carey we are passionate about training people for ministry, mission, and the marketplace. While we have gained a reputation for being a research-led academic institution of quality, we direct this excellence towards an applied learning which enables graduates to serve and think and lead in a way that advances God’s mission in the world. We offer our own Bachelor of Applied Theology degree, a Master of Theology programme in partnership with Laidlaw College, and PhD studies with AUT University. We serve the largely evangelical-charismatic family of churches in the Baptist Union of New Zealand, but also draw students from many other Christian streams.

For a copy of a full position description please e-mail charles.hewlett@carey.ac.nz

If you believe you have the knowledge, skills and experience, and support the values and mission of Carey Baptist College we would encourage you to express your interest in the relevant role. Please send a resumé with a covering letter addressing these criteria to charles.hewlett@carey.ac.nz before 29 July 2011.

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Biblical understandings of human gender: Part Five: Grudem on Adam and Eve ii

In a previous post I dealt with Grudem’s first three reasons for claiming that we can see male headship in Scripture “before the fall”.

His fourth reason: “The naming of the human race” seems to me disingenuous. He claims that God names humanity “man” in Gen 5:1-2. This claim depends on arguing that ‘adam is not a gender neutral term. That claim depends on citing a selection of verses from the early chapters of Genesis, where ‘adam functions often as a proper name Adam (human), corresponding to his partner’s name Eve (life). One cannot argue from this (usually) quite distinct usage to claim that ‘adam where it is not a name is not a gender neutral term. Indeed quite the opposite, the way the Hebrew and Greek languages are used in Scripture shows that gendered terms like ‘ish & adelphos in the plural at least can and do act as gender neutral terms!1

I don’t plan to address the other arguments from his ten as they seem to me either to place too much weight on some idea which might or might not be present in the text but which is not expressed there, or to depend on reading back into Genesis elements of later theology (risking a circular argument).

So, in summary I am not convinced by Grudem that we should understand Gen 1-3 as teaching before the fall the submission of one gender to another or the authority of one over the other.

Therefore my conclusion from examining these chapters is that:

  • humans are created male and female equally in the image of God
  • humans are created for partnership in difference (but there seems before the fall to be no suggestion of a difference in authority or a hierarchy between the genders in God’s creative design)
  • as a consequence of the fall women may be “ruled” by their men.
  1. Incidentally in his footnote 20 he cites BDB to claim that ‘adam has four senses. When I looked it seemed that his meaning 3 “a man in distinction from a woman” is simply not present in BDB, which does not seem to support his ideas.  []

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Psalms today: call for ideas

For a course I am teaching next semester I need some examples of Christians using psalms in the contemporary world. I’ve been searching YouTube and TextWeek. Frankly I’m less than impressed that what I’m finding will really stimulate my students to themselves be creative and effective in using psalms :(

Can any of you point me to interesting and/or stimulating examples?

BTW here’s one student’s own attempt from a previous year:

 

 

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Biblical understandings of human gender: Part Four: Grudem on Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, from Genesis. Catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter (via Wikimedia)

Many people, including those with whom I am in conversation here,1 cite Wayne Grudem’s work (and especially his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth) to argue for an understanding of Gen 1-3 (or perhaps more accurately Gen 2-3 since Grudem himself seems to read Gen 1 in a fully egalitarian sense)2 in a way very different from how I have understood those chapters in previous posts. A key to Grudem’s arguments here are his “Ten arguments showing male headship in marriage before the Fall”. Here I will address only his first three:

  1. The order: Adam was created first, then Eve
  2. The representation: Adam, not Eve, had a special role in representing the human race
  3. The naming of woman

On the order and naming I think it is significant to notice that the human being ‘adam is only spoken of as a “man”3 when he recognises the woman as “bone of his bone” etc. (i.e. “corresponding to him” to use God’s language from 2:18)4 and it is at this same moment that recognising himself as “man” he recognises her as “woman”. Far from suggesting “male headship in marriage before the fall” this to me suggests gender reciprocity.5

I want to deal at greater length with Grudem’s second point. He claims, in brief summary that Adam (understood as the husband of Eve, not as humanity) acts in a representative way while Eve does not. Before we start to look at Grudem’s argument I would like to point out a complication. In Gen 1-2 the word ‘adam is used in two different ways (it would be convenient if one were signalled by affixing the article ha’adam “the human being” but that usage is not clear).6 Sometimes as in Gen 1:26-27; 2:5 ‘adam clearly (in 1:27 also explicitely) means a human or humanity. Whereas in 3:21 the term acts as a name. Our difficulty stems from the other usages where it might be a name, Adam, or it might be a description “the human”.7

1 Cor 15:22 is a key text for Grudem:

21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;  22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 )

In verse 21 the Greek word used is anthropos roughly an equivalent of the Hebrew ‘adam since it means a human being or humanity in general rahter than (usually) a “man”. In v.22 Paul uses adam, which is not a Greek term to indicate that he is talking about the opening chapters of Genesis. Although Grudem claims that here:

The New Testament does not say, “as in Eve all die,” but rather, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

I am not convinced that here Paul is saying “as in Adam, but not Eve, all die”. It seems to me rather that his use of anthropos in the verse before suggests that here adam represents the Hebrew ‘adam rather than a gendered name.

Grudem concludes this section saying:

Adam alone represented the human race, because he had a particular leadership role that God had given him, a role Eve did not share.

How odd, that in Gen 1-3 this “particular leadership role” given by God is not mentioned in the text, but must be inferred back into the text after thousands of years of fallen existance in a gendered and unequal world.

  1. Previous posts in the series are:

    []

  2. I am trying in this series of posts to use Egalitarian and Complementarian spelt, with capital letters, to speak of the “party-line” positions often identified in that way, and spelt in lowercase, egalitarian and complementarian, when speaking of emphases or positions that seem to fit those labels, but which I am not identifying with some “party-line”. Thus, here, I am saying that on pp.25-28 where he deals with the claim that “Men and women are equal in value and dignity” Grudem is presenting a position, that is probably not that of a party-line Egalitarian, but is “egalitarian” in that it affirms the equal dignity and value of women and men. []
  3. = male human []
  4. kenegdo is translated variously but always with something like this sense NIV is the weakest of the translations I consulted.  The LXX went further still to accomodate this verse to traditional views of gender by omitting the term altogether! []
  5. An egalitarian view, with a small E. []
  6. In fact it almost seems the opposite of what one might expect, with “the human” meaning Adam. []
  7. As I said the presence or absence of the article does NOT neatly distinguish these usages for us. []

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Biblical understandings of human gender: Part Three: Gender in a fallen world

This is not the first post in this series, so to understand “where I am coming from you might read these (if you have not) first:

In Parts One and Two I considered Genesis chapters One and Two asking what they taught us about God’s designs for gendered humanity. In Part Three we’ll move on to the next chapter (Gen 3) to consider “Gender in a fallen world”.

Martin van Heemskerck via Wikimedia Commons

On my reading this chapter begins:1

 

The man and his wife were both naked,2 and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

So as we start to read the account of the fall/first sin we do so reminded that humanity is gendered (while I do not think their nakedness is a hint that their sin is sexual, I do think it draws attention to their gendered state).

Right at the start the smart talking serpent addresses himself to the woman. This choice, to speak to the woman rather than the man has been the subject of both serious and lighthearted discussion. Is she the target because she is weak, or because being stronger she will persuade the weaker male? But in fact the choice of the woman is only strange, and in need of comment, if we assume a society (like the ones we live in) where wives should be subordinate to their husbands.3 You take my point, I hope, commentators across the ages have felt that the serpent “ought” to have spoken first to the husband, but the narrator makes no such assumption. The choice is not remarked or commented in the text, because the narrator is aware that we have just heard Gen 1 & 2, and know that such a hierachical view did not describe human gender relations in this world still functioning as its creator designed it.

As we know, the woman and man sin.4 The snake has also sinned, since sin is rebellion against God, and not merely breaking his commands.5 Therefore, they and indeed the whole creation that they represent, recieves consequences. Among those consequences of sin the woman is told: “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”6 Thus rule by one gender over the other is seen here as a consequence of human sin, just as the way in which weeds make farming bane as well as pleasure is a consequence of that sin, and neither is part of God’s design for the world.

  1. You may choose to follow Stephen Langton and consider this the last verse of the previous chapter, in this case ch.3 is not as strongly introduced by the gendered nature of humans, but still the verse sets the scene for ch.3. Or you may think of it as a bridge between episodes, like the ones TV soaps offer, in which case it still introduces ch.3. [Such bridges are common in biblical narrative, Ruth chapters 1 & 2 are linked and separated by 1:22 which summarises ch. 1 and links to ch.2 with its mention of the barley harvest.]  []
  2. Nakedness is a motif of Gen 3, and the serpent’s cleverness puns with it for he was ‘arum. []
  3. I know, you can argue  that contemporary Western society does not assume that. Argue away! Most humans today, and across history, and certainly the firsdt hearers of this story, do live in such societies. []
  4. Yes, she sinned first, having been the one involved in the conversation about the fruit, but the simplicity of “she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” [Gen 3:6b] makes clear there is little possibility of extra blame or “weakness” involved here. []
  5. The woman and man rebel perhaps as well as break the command because their motives for eating include: “as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” []
  6. The claim that her “desire” is for some form of ruling over him seems difficult to sustain, the other two uses in Scripture of the word are clear, in Song 7:11 it refers to the man’s desire for his bride, and in Gen 4:7 to sin’s desire for Cain, like a wild beast desiring its prey. However, if Gen 3:16 does express a consequence of the fall that woman will desire to master man it equally and clearly expresses that man’s mastery over woman is such a consequence. []

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There is something seriously wrong

I found this article from a post on Lifehacker, this is the picture they used.

The MSN Money website has an article How to eat when you’re really broke“. Author Liz Weston reckons an average American family should be able to save about $3,000 a year and could save much more.

 

She offers some simple and easy advice:

  • Eat mostly at home (a no-brainer if you want to save money ;)
  • Skip the processing (another no-brainer, processed foods cost more because they cost more to make) but what interests me, and I’ll come back to this, is that she starts the paragraph like this: “Steer away from foods with lots of additives, chemicals and packaging; they’re often not as good for you
  • Demote meat (this one will save you less in NZ but even here in the land of cheap meat the cost of protein from beans and such is way less than meat)
  • Promote veggies – she notes that buying in-season and local produce will save you even more
  • Go for the grains – noting that “offer more nutrients and fiber

I’ll  hold off mentioning the last suggestion from the front page for a moment and comment more on the ones above. (I’ll return to the remaining suggestion below, don’t worry ;)

What strikes me about the suggestions above is that:

  1. they could only apply to Westerners and the rich in the majority world, no one else could afford to eat other than this way
  2. these suggestions are practically identical with the proposals Western governments are making in order to improve their populations’ health!

So, the long and the short of it is: The way most of us eat is expensive, bad for us, and unsustainable on a global scale. Something is wrong somewhere. (If you want more discussion on this issue, and some great recipes to help you do something about it try, as well as Google, our blog: Repentant Carnivores.)

Oh, yes, that final suggestion:

  • Watch the waste – “Americans waste up to 40% of our food supply. If that’s the case in your household, you could save hundreds of dollars a year just by patrolling your refrigerator, freezer and pantry each day so you can use stuff before it rots.” Frankly that’s disgusting, if the figure is anything like that high in other countries there is something seriously wrong.

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The State of Israel

I had not come across George Athas’ occasional blog until Jim West mentioned it. Gone are the days when a new blog by a biblical scholar was such a rarity that it was eagerly shared around the community. (That’s both exciting, blogging is slowly becoming more “normal”, and sad, there is a lesser sense of community among biblical studies bloggers.)

George had three fine posts last month that relate closely to the topic of our book, so I thought I’d mention them here (since I’ve been going on about the book so much in this last week some of you could well be interested ;)

In the first: Restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Part 1) George questions the claim that the modern state of Israel can be seen as a restoration of biblical Israel. In Restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Part 2) he deals with “replacement theology” the claim that the church has with the messiah Jesus at its head replaced Israel and become the inheritor of the old promises. Having, gently but firmly demolished these two (often polemically presented as the only approaches to the issue, conveniently simplifying the modern socio-political issues) George moves on in Restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Part 3) to construct an alternative view which fits better with the biblical teaching and contemporary situation. What he does not perhaps achieve is a satisfactory simple answer to questions about the specific promises of the land.

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