Tuesday 27 February 2007

Christ's coffin

Director of the film, Titanic, James Cameron, claims to have found the bone boxes (ossuaries) of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and other members of Jesus' family. When I first saw the news story I scoffed. Which is kind of strange for someone in my position: why wasn't it the most interesting piece of news I've heard in ages? I guess there are a few reasons I was underwhelmed:

1. The words came out of James Cameron's mouth, and he isn't someone I generally refer to for my NT history.
2. There have been a number of stories like this in recent times (Dan Brown's being the biggest of course), so I'm probably a little theory-weary.
3. The ossuaries were empty, so it would seem that they have no possible bearing on the discussion of the resurrection of Jesus nor anything remotely relevant to Christian faith (except, perhaps, adding some historical data to what we know from the New Testament).
4. I do expect evidence of the Passion events to keep being found, but I expect it to match Gospel accounts, such is my confidence in their historicity.

But suppose for a moment this IS the ossuary of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose it could somehow be demonstrated that Jesus' bones were in here, that the body decayed and returned to dust like everyone's does.

That would be news. Unwelcome, lifechanging news. Such is the historical seriousness of Christian faith.
I'll get our NT scholars onto a more detailed look at the story.

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Tuesday 13 February 2007

Pearson on Rudd

In columns in The Australian, Christopher Pearson has been challenging the authenticity of ALP leader, Kevin Rudd’s Christianity. Pearson claims Rudd equivocates on religion—sometimes Anglican, sometimes Catholic, sometimes privately religious, othertimes suggesting a greater role for the church in state life. Whether or not he has a point, some of Pearson’s poor arguments against Rudd have reinforced for me the importance of sophisticated Christian intellectual engagement in social debate. Pearson just won’t allow for any subtlety of argument.
For example, Pearson suggests that Rudd’s vote in support of legalising the RU486 abortifacient drug was an anti-Christian act. Taking the drug might be anti-Christian and sinful, if one views human life as beginning at conception (as I do), but surely being involved in a political process about its availability is not.
Pearson also suggests, bizarrely, that the Bible contains five passages condemning abortion: one in Galatians and four in Revelations [sic], he says. Galatians 1:15 raises God’s foreknowledge of a human being before birth, but does not contribute anything to the argument about abortion. It is part of the Bible’s overall maximal attitude to human life (the basis of my own view on abortion). I am still struggling to identify the Revelation references: Chapter 12, perhaps, with the child-devouring dragon? But surely Pearson understands this is apocalyptic imagery, not a lesson in ethics? Or does he mean the condemnation of murderers in Rev 22:15? But that pre-empts the argument.
One wonders if Pearson is a Bible reader or merely a Bible wielder, scoring blows for political purposes. I’d love to see the ALP revisit its position on a range of bioethical issues, but Pearson has hardly provided the impetus for it.
In a follow-up column last weekend, Pearson aimed to foil Rudd’s efforts to win back the Catholic vote to Labor. There has been a drift in the other direction over the past decade, and many commentators have noted that Howard’s cabinet looks like a DLP collective! Pearson emphasises the theological distinctives of Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths (a refreshing admission of difference when many paper over such distinctions) and proclaims that Rudd can’t have it both ways. I can’t remember the last time I heard that a politician’s views on transubstantiation might ruin his chances of election. But I do love the fact that it is bringing theology to the fore in our national debates.

Tim Johnson has expanded on my thoughts nicely here

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Wednesday 7 February 2007

Percy's Cosmos

Let me return to the blogworld for 2007 by sharing a couple of quotes I'm enjoying today. Doing some extraneous reading to avoid writing, I'm flicking through Walker Percy's very funny and poignant mock-selfhelp book, Lost in the Cosmos. Percy is a Catholic humanist 2oth Century novelist, and wry wrestling with the inexplicable God and His absurd world mark all of his fiction. This book is a form of philosophical therapy, a selfhelp quiz asking the reader to carry out a series of thought experiments in order to explore his or her view of the Self. Its parallel in the world of movies would be I (heart) Huckabees. Percy's self-analysis is sharp, in the sense that it cut through even the thickest self-deception.

The book ends with what Percy sees as the choice for moderns (it was written in 1983): accept the preposterous doctrines of Christianity, or the more preposterous doctrines of scientism. Ask yourself, he suggests, whether you would rather be in 'Church' or in 'Nature' when an extraterrestial message comes in from the Great Beyond, "Do you read me? Come back".

Anyway, my two quotes for the day are:

"Two gods in the Cosmos is one too many."
"Whoever heard of a bad poet committing suicide?"

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