It has been striking me more and more recently that I am, at this point in my ministry, doing pretty much everything I said I would never do on the mission field before I got here. I am teaching English for ministry. I am using - and creating - systematized programmes for evangelism and discipleship rather than responding flexibly to individual situations. And, as we plan what happens to my various preaching and teaching slots from January, I realise that I have taken on more work than is sustainable and reproducible.
Just after writing about Christ as a critical category over our theologies, I turned to the next part of our series through Acts to see what I had to preach on this week. Chapter five, oh yummy. One of the reasons I prefer preaching in series like this is because it keeps me honest, stops me from picking and choosing, and encourages me to deal with passages I would prefer to avoid. I believe that reading the Bible is meant to change you, not just reinforce your existing views, and grappling with the bits you find unpleasant is a necessary part of this.
I mentioned earlier that I was going to write something about the “Scripture interprets Scripture” school of hermeneutics. I may not succeed, but I'm going to try to see if I can explain some of the problems I have with it.
I've just had a nice few days holiday. I'm relaxed. But just before I went, I got an email that really annoyed me.
As I wrote this morning, we had our second Maibara Revive meeting today. I arrived at church this morning to listen to a litany of people who couldn't make it. Takahashi-sensei said, “Well, it could be just the four of us…”
I got a copy of Simon Ponsonby's new book on eschatology, And The Lamb Wins, on Thursday. And I read it on Thursday, in one sitting. It's a very, very good book. One of the things that I don't like about most theological books is that they don't tend to take seriously both sides of an argument - they fall victim to the temptation to straw-man the side they don't like. But when reading Lamb, I very often found myself thinking “Yes, I understand point X, but what about point Y?” only to turn the page and find a thorough explanation of point Y. And in the end, I didn't find myself disagreeing with many of Simon's conclusions, mostly because of the way he hunted for a middle way between the various theological positions out there. For a very (and pointlessly) controversial area of theology, Simon treads appropriately carefully.
There is a hierarchy of sexiness for mission work. There shouldn't be, but there is, and it goes like this:
A while back Gervase asked me a very astute question about the role of doctrine. I am still thinking about this, and I don't have a good answer yet. So in seeking to come up with an answer, I want to throw out a few ideas.