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  • Wise Gamaliel - The Test of Time

    Today's PAYG told the story from Acts where Gamaliel counselled his fellow religious leaders not to get involved in trying to suppress the new Jesus-movement, noting that other movements had come and gone, sometimes attracting a substantial short term following.  If this is of God, he observed, we won't be able to stop it.  Two thousand years on, we would assert his wisdom.

    But it did make me stop and think (not in the way PAYG guided, it rarely is!).  What new (or newer) movements or developments within Christianity cause bother to those in authority?  For example, would the ordination of women or the Toronto blessing (to pick two diverse ideas) pass Gamaliel's test?

    I am struck that some parts of the church perceive other parts as sliding into heresy or apostasy because of new developments - be they setting up in pubs or cafes, affirming same sex relationships, exercising charismatic gifts, singing with guitars/organs/not singing at all, political involvement, non-violent protest, green issues, Fairtrade or a whole host of other weird and wonderful combinations and permutations.  What will the test of time reveal about any of these?  If we could fast forward a century or two, which of these 'new things' would survive, and which would not?

    I am also intrigued by the correlation of longevity with divine approval - is it really that simple?  Is there not also a place for the 'krisis' and the 'karios' - the 'aha' moments, the paradigm shifts, the 'change or die'?  Is it not the case that some long-lived praxis eventually proves sinful - slavery being the obvious and overworked example.

    I think Gamaliel spoke good sense.  I would argue that his test proved correct.  But, we have to beware of simplistically and narrowly applying it.  Not all that is fleeting is bad, not all that lasts is good.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, to every time there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

    If this is of God, then nothing we do or say will stop it... whenever something in church life challenges us, I suspect we do well to remind oursleves of this.

  • All Four One and One Four All?

    Sorry.  Very BAD humour.

    More mischievous mind meanderings from my exploration of Matthew 28.


    The bit we are doing: four 'alls' that Jesus spoke of...

    All authority

    All peoples/places/nations

    All commands

    All times


    The odd connection I made, which we are not pursuing, a version of the Shema

    All heart

    All mind

    All soul

    All strength


    I think Baptists have a tendency to use Matt 28:18-20 as a kind of Shema-equivalent, not least as it so clearly underpins the Declaration of Principle (BUGB version used here with teeny tweaks)...

    Hear oh Baptists,

    Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.

    Christian Baptism is the immersion in water into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of those who have professed repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who 'died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried, and rose again the third day'.

    It is the duty of every disciple to bear personal witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to take part in the evangelisation of the world.


    Sorry, it's mid-afternoon, I'm revising my draft sermon and I probably need a cup of tea!

  • Some or All? Matthew 28:17... Help I Need a Greek Scholar

    OK, so Matthew's ending was meant to be easy after John and Mark.  It is, I'm happy with the ideas that are emerging (wish they'd done it earlier in the week, but still).  I'm going to side step any weird and wonderful debates about the trinitarian formula for Baptism, but I have a question about verse 17...

    Roughly it is rendered thus...

    When the disciples saw Jesus they worshipped hum but some of them doubted.

    But (thanks Word International Commentary) the more accurate translation from the Greek is,

    .. they prostrated themselves [suggesting worship] but they doubted.

    In other words, it wasn't that 'some' doubted it was 'all' of them.

    Now I'm happy enough either way, can work with each of these, but why is it that the word 'some' has been inserted (in any language I can understand, or make a stab at deciphering, (so not many))?  What is so uncomfortable about all the eleven being uncertain at this point?  Such uncertainty is clearly presumed in other gospels, so why do we wriggle uncomfortably when Matthew states it?


    καὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν

    Some MS have

    και ιδοντες αυτον προσεκυνησαν αυτω οι δε εδιστασαν

    But that's still a 'they' not a 'some of them' isn't it?


    HELP! I need a proper NT person to explain it to me! Sean where are you?!!

  • Interesting...

    This piece of research by CRUK is interesting - well to me and 48,000 people a year anyway.  I did read the stuff on CRUKs own website but it wasn't especially clear.

    I have no idea whether any of the tissue I donated would have found its way into this project, but it demonstrates exactly why it was the right thing to do.

    One day the cure will be found... one day....

  • Gideons

    Today I had a short meeting with a couple of Gideons; they were basically trying to recruit new members as there are very few of them left in this area.

    I have a soft spot for Gideons.  When I was thirteen I was given a Gideon New Testament... I still have it somewhere (I saw it the other day so it's not exactly buried).  For a long time I used the daily reading guide listed in it and dutifully read the allotted passages.  Whilst I'm not convinced it's the best way to read the Bible, it got me into practices that have served me well for something like (eek) 36 years.  I am pretty sure that being given my Gideon NT was a significant part of my faith story.

    When I lived in Dibley, one of my congregation was a lifelong Gideon, an elderly man (well into his nineties) somewhat crusty but with a mischievous sense of fun and an indomitable spirit.  He was a great encourager to me in my time there, and I was pleased to support his work in Bible distribution.

    So, even though I have difficulty with their stance on women (only men can be Gideons; only wives of Gideons can be directly involved) I retain my soft spot for them.  That they give out Testaments to any or all who will take them, without charge, without strings, is something I deeply admire.  To open the drawer of a hotel room, or locker of hospital ward, to enter an unfamiliar place and find 'my' holy book already there... that's a great gift.