Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Taking the time to be a Father

Post by Edwina Hine

Lately, I found the following article (German vice-chancellor takes time off to be a dad, The Guardian) very interesting.  As I was reading it, I was reminded of Case Magazine #12 with the theme 'Family Foundations: What’s important for marriage, parenthood and family life.'

In Case Magazine #12  Professor Trevor Cairney writes about families, and in particular The Role of Fathers: Aligning biblical wisdom and research. It is an in-depth look at fatherhood and explores many issues that affect parents particularly dads. In the essay he sets out with two central aims.

To encourage fathers (and mothers) " develop an understanding of what God expects of fathers as men of God; and, second, to encourage further discussion relating to how we can work at reshaping our lives so that those of us who are fathers spend time with our families, loving them, teaching them, instructing them in God’s ways and modelling what it means to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Photo sourced from SMH
Prof Cairney draws on demographic research to illustrate the changing structure of the family, and discusses how changes in employment patterns have impacted on the family. He discusses how research suggests that changing working patterns are having many adverse effects on families. In particular, highlights that atypical hours of work are problematic with negative impacts on health, relationships, families and children’s well being. He also reminds us what the bible teaches on God-centred families and in particular fathers.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4

The article referenced in this blog post is available as a free download from the CASE Website. CASE Associates receive Case magazine 4 times per year as part of their benefits. For blog followers who are yet to be CASE Associates you can sign up HERE or order a single copy HERE.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Heavens Declare His Glory

Guest post written by Patrick Chan

Recently my wife Vivian and I went to the Sydney Observatory at night for our first wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful experience. We managed to learn a bit about astronomy, but we also had a real sense of the 'heavens declaring the glory of God'.

Today, the Sydney Observatory is in the middle of the city near the Rocks, where the First Fleet landed. However, it's set atop a hill so we could see the southern hemisphere's constellations - or at least some of them. Of course, we could see far more - and far more clearly - than if we happened to be in the Central Business District (CBD) or city centre or downtown of Sydney.

Nevertheless, the Sydney Observatory has not functioned as a research facility for several decades primarily due to its location which predisposes it to heavy light pollution. The city lights outshine the starry nights.

Perhaps because we both hadn't been out to simply stare and take in the skies at night in quite some time, we were taken aback by the sheer beauty of it all. Let alone when we peered through the observatory's telescopes and were able to observe celestial objects like the planet Venus and the Moon. And yet, we had to be warned by the astronomer not to expect Venus, for instance, to look anything near as lovely as a digital photograph, and to be reminded that the real privilege lay in seeing the real Venus with our naked eye as well as via a telescope.

Above: Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

As I said, it was all a sight to behold, and it filled us with a sense of awe and humble praise to the Lord God who has "set his glory in the heavens," who, when we considered "the work of [his] fingers, the moon and the stars, which [he has] set in place," in turn echoed in our hearts, "what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps 8).

Indeed, the moon and the stars serve as fixed points in the present night sky, rotating in concentric circles around the south pole in the music of the spheres, some dipping under the horizon only to rise again in full crescendo. But though they're 'fixed' points, they're not permanently fixed, for the heavenly vault looks different now than it did in days gone past, and distant generations in future millennia to come will see what Vincent Van Gogh or Caspar David Friedrich did not.

Above: 'Starry Night Over the Rhone' Vincent van Gogh (courtesy Wiki Commons)

What Viv and I saw left us with great reverence for God. I can only imagine what previous generations of Christians must have seen, and how it affected them, for I suppose most would not have been city dwellers accustomed to skies occupied by skyscrapers and silence pushed out by the constant hum and background noise. I doubt they would have had to work so hard to peer beyond the fog and daze to see the cosmos glittering with its splendid gems and crystals. Perhaps they had a different, 'better' weight of glory to bear.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Media Matters

The latest edition of Case magazine is set to arrive in mailboxes this week. Our topic is 'Media Matters'.  Why? Because the media we engage with impacts what we do and what we think. It affects how we communicate and who we communicate with. In our varied contributions we reflect on how media is changing the world, and the impact—both good and bad—of those changes.

The first article is by Dr Jenny Taylor of Lapido Media, who discusses the ‘religion taboo’ within the news media. News stories are frequently written by journalists with little understanding of the religious issues involved, and some ignore religious factors altogether. Taylor looks at why this is, how it is changing, and what Christians can do to overcome religious blindspots.

The focus then moves to digital technologies—the new media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and the like. There is little doubt that digital media has changed the way we communicate. It has enabled the establishment of new forms of virtual communities. It has given voice to millions who would previously have found it difficult to share their thoughts and ideas. We see YouTube videos ‘going viral’ as funny, profound, and sometimes even banal images of life spread across the globe in hours. We observe music and books being self-published and promoted in ways that would never have been possible in the past. Individuals and groups like use social media to influence public opinion and to lobby governments. And we have vast virtual stores of information, knowledge and images available globally from desktops and via varied media.

Yes media matters, and how it is used also matters. But there is a tension that has arisen as a result of the massive shift towards digital technology in the last five to ten years. Does this shift serve to enhance social engagement, or do the manufactured personae we inhabit online in fact undermine genuine relationship? Does it facilitate social activism, or an illusion that deceives us and others into thinking we care? Is the removal of constraints that embed us in ‘real’ social and moral contexts liberating or isolating? Do the dangers of being consumed by technology addiction and idolatry mean that Christians should avoid getting too involved, or is the greater danger that of becoming obsolete in a world that has moved on? These are some of the questions we need to consider.

Julia Bollen addresses the reality of the pervasive forms of media that are ‘always on’, and what’s more, ‘always-on-us’. She asks us to think about the impact of the extensive use of new social media, and argues that the Bible places a special importance on face-to-face relationships and our ordained nature as embodied communicators. Looking at a different aspect of social media, Justine Toh exposes the emptiness of its role as a,

‘court of public opinion where we crowdsource notions of justice, right, and what are acceptable or unacceptable views’. 

In her view it is simply an aggregate of individual free choices, isolated from any context against which good choices can be made.

Scott Stephens (well-known ABC media presenter and writer) offers an insightful critique of the art and assumptions of Thomas Hirschhorn. Hirschhorn claims that his art, consisting largely of disturbing images of human carnage resulting from war and trauma, is an attempt to remove the artist-as-mediator to allow the viewer to genuinely engage with a reality usually censored by mainstream media channels. Stephens seeks to turn Hirschhorn’s argument on its head by revealing that his presentation of reality comes with its own form of mediation. In counterpoint, Stephens considers the transformative power of the often gruesome religious images of Christ and martyrs, which, he suggests, have an integrity and connection to deep truths absent from the work of artists like Hirschhorn.

In a short essay and interview, David May highlights the potential digital media has for the church in building up believers and reaching non-believers. The practical essay argues that as Christians we,

‘are privileged to communicate the greatest message of all, so it's worth embracing technology and media for the sake of the gospel’. 

In a brief interview David also explains how he has implemented some of these ideas in his capacity as communications director with his church.

Finally, this issue also includes a fascinating exploration by New College staff member Jonathan Billingham, who considers archetypal narratives and how they can be used by Christian artists. He illustrates his brief essay with his composition, 'Servitude'. A final segment—‘On holiday with C.S. Lewis’—is a collection of short reviews and reflections on the life and work of C.S. Lewis, testament to his ongoing influence on Christians today.

If you are not a subscriber to Case you can always read one or two articles free online from our website or you might sign up to receive your own quarterly edition in paper or digital form for as little as $20 per year. Subscribe HERE.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Veiled in Flesh: The power of music at Christmas

A post by Edwina Hine

Courtesy of WikiCommons
As I get older I continue to appreciate older hymns. Whilst I can still appreciate modern Christian music, some of the traditional hymns seem to capture the gospel so succinctly. As well, they communicate this message so majestically through melody and word that I am sometimes a little disappointed that the traditional hymns are not sung as often as they use to be.

Christmas Carols are no different - if we take Hark the Herald Angels Sing as an example

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

We see the the gospel message clearly proclaimed. Right from the the first verse we are told that God and sinners are reconciled through the birth of a new King. The third verse addresses Christ overcoming death and bringing  new life to believers - eternal life. And yet it is the second verse that gave me pause for thought today. This Christmas Carol is being sung countless times this advent season, and not only in Churches, but at secular Christmas celebrations. For example, it is piped through hundreds of shopping centres and sung at public carol services of varied types.

The incarnation of Christ is at the centre of this carol. I suspect that some non-Christians must sing the words and not fully comprehend the enormity of the claims of the words. Christians throughout history return to the debate of reconciling the diverse views regarding Jesus' humanity and divinity.

Looking closely at the second verse of  Hark the Herald Angels Sing 

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell

Courtesy of WikiCommons
The carol reminds the singer Christ came as a man - echoing John 1:1, 14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.........
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us 

The carol goes on to tells us that Christ was pleased to take on his humanity "Pleased as man". Christ took on his humanity willingly, for our sake and ultimately his own glory. But why is Christ's Divinity and humanity so important? Colossians 1:15, 19-20 sheds some light on this.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Understanding the incarnation is essential in grasping what Christmas and Christianity is all about. And whilst the idea is not a simple one to grasp, it has been and will continue to be a well debated point of theology. Case Readers might find an article in the 2011 December edition Selling Christmas a helpful read when considering the Incarnation. The article is entitled "Veiled in Flesh: Can we believe the incarnation today?" (by Dr John McClean). It has been available on online.

CASE Associates receive Case magazine 4 times per year as part of their benefits. For blog followers who are yet to become CASE Associates you can sign up HERE or order a single copy HERE.

Send CASE an email