A Case Study In Allegory

Why Biblical imagery must often deviate from physical reality

Perhaps the most famous Christian allegory comes, not from the pages of the Bible, but rather from the pen of John Bunyan in 1678. His work, “The Pilgrims Progress”, describes in vivid detail a long journey taken by a man named ‘Christian’ from the ‘City of Destruction’ to the ‘Celestial City’. This text illustrates many Christian concepts, and teaches many spiritual lessons. It has captivated readers for generations around the globe.

But for many believers, the concept of allegory remains obscure. It is accepted as legitimate, in theory, but in practice it is not well understood or defined. It would seem on the surface to be an elusive catch phrase for any type of spiritual symbolism we would like to superimpose upon any particular Biblical text. The fact is that alleged allegories are often arbitrary and speculative, and for no good reason. There exists an almost limitless number of ways in which one might claim allegorical meaning from any passage.

It turns out there is only one explicit instance of the word ‘allegory’ in the whole Bible. In Galatians 4, Paul uses it to describe his spiritual exposition of Abraham’s two wives and two sons. This certainly does not preclude the existence of other allegories elsewhere1, but it does provide us with a clear test case for the genre. And since Paul leans on Isaiah to make his point, we should do the same. Continue reading “A Case Study In Allegory”

Evidence for Creation

Was the universe designed by a creator?

Although it is impossible to prove the existence of God in the scientific sense, scientists and philosophers agree it is possible to investigate the evidence for a creator of the universe whose presence may be discerned from the creation. This presentation provides evidence that many scientists acknowledge as indicating the universe has been designed for our benefit.

The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream

In Regina Munch’s review of “Chris Lehmann’s The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream”, she remarks that

“Rich or poor, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, Americans are in thrall of the promise of personal fulfillment that this amalgam of therapeutic self-help, financial counseling, and spiritual enlightenment offers. But when enlightenment is instrumentalized for individual advancement, ties between individuals suffer. Surrounded by the language of personal well-being, we are denied the vocabulary of community and solidarity.”

There is much about which to criticise the prosperity gospel, but arguably its obsession with individual advancement is its biggest betrayal of Christianity, as it runs against the concept of Christianity as a collective faith.

As Paul eloquently put it in Romans 12:5,

“so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.”

Capitalism as Religion: How Money Became God

“The Bible Proves Archaeology True”?!

When reality and fundamentalism collide

A recent magazine editorial1 began by giving well deserved criticism of a woeful article2 in the Telegraph. It then turned to focus on “disturbing trends within the brotherhood which indicate a material shift in attitudes towards the Bible,” specifically, claiming that some think the “biblical record is not historically accurate.”

The editorial concluded that “this approach seriously compromises the Christadelphian position on the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, and we need to be alert to the implications, individually and ecclesially.” Sounds serious… Continue reading ““The Bible Proves Archaeology True”?!”

Which Old Testament?

On the central importance of the Septuagint

Timothy’s scriptures

from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God 2 Timothy 3:15-16 KJV

Paul commends the spiritual heritage of Timothy, noting his childhood education provided him a solid grounding in Scripture. Occasionally we might be prompted to ask – what Scripture? It is self-evidence to most Protestants today that Paul is referring to the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament (OT) reflected in the Protestant canon. However, this is making assumptions, quite a few assumptions but we will explore only one – which text was scripture? Continue reading “Which Old Testament?”

Prophet Model: the divine perspective

Challenging and questioning the dominant culture from the divine perspective

It is unsurprising to find that the poetic form and language of prophecy speaks to individual Christians in different ways. Writ large in metaphor and hyperbole, the motifs of judgement and salvation present an enduring message of hope that has universal reach. But indiscriminate application of these words to contemporary events imposes modern concerns on text intended to convey something entirely different: the divine perspective. Continue reading “Prophet Model: the divine perspective”

Help my unbelief

Christ is the bridge between our needs and our capacity

In Mark 9 we read about the healing of the epileptic boy (there are parallel accounts in Matt 17 and Luke 9). This record powerfully demonstrates not only the importance of faith for a disciple but more – the willingness of the Lord to bridge the gap when our own resources are inadequate. Continue reading “Help my unbelief”

The Didache

A 1st century manual on Christian morals and Church practice

The Didache (Greek, ‘The Teaching’) is an ancient Christian writing generally dated towards the end of the 1st Century AD.1 For centuries its existence was only known through sporadic references in the works of the early church fathers, and scholars believed it was lost forever. Continue reading “The Didache”

Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation

To insult someone is to insult the God who created them

The section of the Sermon on the Mount subtitled “Anger” (ESV), “Concerning Anger” (NRSV), or “Murder” (NIV) in Matthew 5:21-27 is both familiar and strange. We understand what it means to insult someone and to be angry with someone, but we may not be sure what “raca” means, nor possibly would we understand why the punishment for doing so is to be “in danger of hell fire”. What is the difference between the “judgement” and the “council”? How does one pay a debt to the last penny when one is stuck in a debtors’ prison? Like much in the Sermon on the Mount, there’s some digging to do before the passage is as clear to us as it would have been to the Galilean fishermen who first hear it. Continue reading “Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation”