The Problem of Violence in the Bible


The Bible is a violent book that describes a violent God. In Genesis 6 God sends a flood that wipes out life on the earth he created. Only the select few on the Ark are saved. Fast forward to the liberation of the Israelites from slavery and God kills all the firstborn sons of Egypt before drowning the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. The Israelites are brought to their own land and told to commit...

Jesus and Suffering


“Life is difficult.” So begins Scott Peck’s best selling book, The Road Less Travelled. This has certainly been driven home to me the last couple of years. At some stage most of us experience significant pain. A broken relationship. A debilitating illness. A period of unemployment. A violent assault. And finally, death. Christians are not immune to this. We follow a suffering Saviour who warns...

A Non-Violent Atonement


In an earlier post I challenged the notion that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. Since then, people who read the post have asked me what is an alternate understanding of how God puts us right with himself and how do Jesus death and resurrection figure into that. The best answer I have come across is in J Denny Weaver’s A Non-Violent Atonement, which I am currently half way...

Why did Jesus die?


In a recent post I suggested that the notion that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins is not a particularly convincing notion. This throws many Christians, who, like me, have been raised to think this is the gospel. A little background might help. On my bookshelf I have the very mainstream evangelical  Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. In the entry “Atonement, Theories of the” it states...

Why Do We Call it Good Friday?


It has always struck me as strange that we refer to the day of Jesus’ death as Good Friday.  Shouldn’t it be “Bad Friday” or “Evil Friday”, or some similar term? Was this not a day when evil was at its worst, unleashing its hatred and fury on One who had done nothing but love extravagantly? It’s on this day I want to immerse myself in Auden’s funeral poem, with it’s final stanza The stars are not...

Jesus Paid the Penalty for My Sin. Is that Really Good News?


For most of my life I have understood the good news to be that on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for my sins. Like the rest of humanity, I was a sinner and deserved to be punished with eternal torment in hell. But to save me Jesus, who was not a sinner and didn’t deserve to die, took my place. On the cross he experienced the penalty I deserve and I received the reward he deserved. This no...

The Heart of the Gospel


In 1971 the Sydney Anglicans produced a report that revolutionised my understanding of the gospel. Now out of print, Move in for Action, a report of the Commission on Evangelism, contained a chapter by Paul Barnett that examined the preaching of the gospel by Paul and Peter as recorded in the book of Acts. He showed that not once do Paul or Peter focus their “evangelistic” preaching...

Sheep, Goats and Salvation. On Matthew 25:31-46.


Sometimes Jesus surprises me. Sometimes he confounds me. In his parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46) he both surprises and confounds. I grew up an orthodox Evangelical. At the centre of my faith was the conviction that  I am a sinner saved by grace. So what do I do with Jesus’ story of the sheep and goats, because it sure doesn’t sound like salvation by grace through...

When Mandela was a Terrorist and Justice Had Nothing to Do with Jesus. How I Came to See Jesus as a Champion of Justice. Jesus and Justice #1


When I was growing up Nelson Mandela was seen by many in my faith community as a terrorist who belonged in prison, the election of the Hawke government was declared by a key figure in my church to be God’s judgement on the nation, and justice had very little to do with Jesus. The Jesus I knew was the Son of God incarnated as a human being who came to earth to pay the penalty for my sins so...

Review: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time


What do you do when you can no longer give yourself to the Jesus of your childhood? That’s the question Marcus Borg, Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State Univerity poses in this short book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Borg was raised in an evangelical Lutheran church where he learned that Jesus was the divine Son of God who took human form to die on a...

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