Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The death of hermeneutics?

There is a whole section of Western academia which is devoted to the art and science of hermeneutics (including biblical hermeneutics). In this realm every claim to truth is up for (re)consideration, few facts are as they appear to be once put into the hermeneutical blender, and the holiest virtue is to assert at each and every point of debate that objectivity is an illusion, and possibly a dangerous one at that.

In the last two days the phenomenon of Trump, expressed in the debate over how many attended and/or watched his inauguration, has, just maybe, fired a deadly shot into the body corporate of hermeneuticists.

In the claim and counter-claim of the past two days Trump's Administration has come up with the notion of "alternative facts." This has been widely derided as another name for lies.

My sense is that the strongest derision comes from the educated classes. If I am right then suddenly a whole bunch of Western educated "there is no such thing as objectivity" folk have rediscovered objectivity.

Perhaps it is too early to pronounce the death of hermeneutics but I do look forward to some books emerging soon along the lines of "The resurrection of objectivity" and "Objective truth undoubtedly exists."

Another reason to thank God for Donald Trump!

Nota bene: I will NOT take comments which discuss/dispute the inauguration itself or the claims and counter-claims about how many were there. That is NOT the point of this post! There are other places on the internet to do this. I will take comments which discuss hermeneutics, subjectivity, objectivity, the general state of Western academia and the like.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sunshine and rain for inauguration ... and I have been thinking

On one thing Kiwis are currently united: we are having a terrible summer!

Apparently there was an inauguration somewhere else in the world but local Anglican attention was on the inauguration of a new episcopal ministry in the South Island of NZ (Te Wai Pounamu).

Saturday was overcast but not dull which was good for an outdoor powhiri (formal welcome) and consecration service for Richard Wallace at Onuku, Akaroa Harbour. Taonga article here and my personal pic below.

Yesterday was one of our worst days: rain, more rain and a washed out day of test cricket here in Christchurch. And, by the sounds of it, not great weather for an otherwise excellent installation service for +Richard Wallace at Te Hepara Pai, Christchurch. Taonga article here. (No pic from me because I was preaching elsewhere in the city).*

All in all a good start to this new chapter for the mission of Anglican Maori on this island.

Natch I keep thinking during weekends such as this one past about our mission generally as Anglicans, and especially in the localities of the South Island where I have lived most of my life and served nearly all my years as an ordained minister.

Both Maori and Pakeha have huge challenges as we move deeper into the 21st century. Simply put, we have a challenge connecting with our communities. The challenge is highlighted by attendance numbers. Even though it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a full, statistically satisfying set of numbers, no sets of figures I see, nor discussions I have with those who do what research is possible on these numbers concludes anything other than this:

we are not connecting with our communities as we once did and, with the exceptions of parishes/rohe here and there, we are not showing signs of of turning that tendency around.

(See also this related post).

I have described things in the words above because I think "connecting" is a helpful word to describe what is not happening (when we see numbers declining) as well as to explain what is happening when we do see numbers rising. Growing churches connect with their communities (that is, a local, residential surrounding community or a community of interest (Gen X, Y, etc or families or a group identifiable by race/culture/nationality). Declining churches rightly discuss how they can better connect with their community and feel some despair at not knowing how to make that better connection.

I also see in some churches, where congregational attendance is falling, that "connecting" within the existing church community has become challenging. (That may be as simple as working on greater relevancy for sermons or it may be much more complex re the tide of secularism washing people slowly but surely out of the orbit of the church family).

Anyway, I am not going to resolve these matters in this post but I write to acknowledge the challenge we Anglicans Down Under continue to face as we move into this particular year. It is a greater challenge than the You Know What issue.**

*Incidentally, our local Christchurch Press today, reporting on the two events of the weekend, mixes up the installation with the consecration and throws in another mistake or two ... ecclesiastical reporting is not what it used to be.

**On that matter, there have been some bits and bobs of things Anglican (here and abroad) happening since I last mentioned it on this blog but for now I note only this latest Canterbury letter to the Primates.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

While we wait (Updated)

Apt for this morning when we Kiwis wake to news that You Know Who is POTUS are these words from a daily office book I follow:

What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and the new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. Think of the Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved. 2 Peter 3:13-14

And from the prayers in this book is a prayer I have prayed and appreciated many times, not least because it reminds us of the "local" which we ourselves have most control over, our own homes:

Let our striving for your kingdom not fall short through selfishness or fear - may the universe be alive with the Spirit, and our homes be the pledge of a world redeemed.
Right, I am off to the consecration at Onuku! Comments may not be posted till, well, much later in the day ...

Update: This article by Conor English expresses a core issue re Trumpism which will trouble NZ's economy

Friday, January 20, 2017

Changes for Tikanga Maori

Tomorrow I am going to the consecration of Richard Wallace (formerly based in Hokitika) as the new Bishop of Te Wai Pounamu. The consecration will take place at the Onuku Marae (in Akaroa Harbour) and the installation will be on Sunday at Te Hepara Pai (Ferry Road, Christchurch).

There will be a poignancy to the events of the weekend because Tikanga Maori will be without the presence and guidance of its Archbishop, Turei Brown, who died recently and whose funeral was just a week ago.

The retirement of Archbishop Brown as Archbishop had already been signalled so the fact of an imminent election for that role will not be a change per se for Tikanga Maori. In respect of his role as Bishop of Tairawhiti (around Gisborne, Napier, East Cape areas) a new bishop has already been elected, Don Tamihere. (No date has yet been set for his consecration). As Bishop Don, he will represent a new, younger generation of Tikanga Maori leaders. That will be a significant change!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fair to Russia? (now, with new Postscript)

There was a time when Late Great Planet Earth prognostications about the End of the World envisaged Russia (then "Soviet Union") as the prophesied forces of Gog and Magog pouring down Armageddonically on Israel from the north, like the wolf on the fold. Well, perhaps the geography was a little out, as so far we only have Russia bearing down on parts of Syria.

Anyway, in these here posts and comments, there has been interesting discussion from time to time about Russia, Putin, and whether we in the West properly and accurately understand Russian interests, concerns and history.

Thus, as we move closer to the Day of Trump (Inauguration) it may be relevant to read this analysis by Victor Davis Hanson. Is he too tough on Obama? Does he "get" Russia? Have we in the West overlooked the longer history of Russia and its neighbours as variously allies and enemies as an explanation of Russian (seeming) aggression?

It would be a pity for the world to end because we have engaged in wilful misunderstanding!


For those concerned at the dangers of neoliberalism, this Tweet may be useful to your argument :)

Monday, January 16, 2017

I thank God for Donald Trump

Back at work today. Great holiday - thank you, Lord. Some bits of the holiday will appear in subsequent postings. The Hell Hole of the South Pacific. Going to church with Bill English. Joy of cricket.

More than a little facetiously: the (continuing, informative, lively, provocative, profound) discussion on this blog over recent weeks since my last post and in the absence of new posts has inspired me with the thought that I need never post again ...

But the best news for this blog, really, is the ever present Donald Trump in the media, mainstream, social, you name it media. He is and will be the gift that keeps on giving to bloggers, reporters, Tweeters and dinner table conversationalists. However this is a Christian and Anglican blog, so my comments about Donald Trump or spurred on by the same, will try to have a Christian and Anglican angle to them. For starters, today, and to ease my way back into blogging for 2017 - the tenth year of ADU - I will list the reasons why I (at least) can thank God for Donald Trump.

(1) As already stated, he regularly furnishes new material for blogs. (But, Donald, if you are reading this, could you please tone it down a bit. How about one new thing to respond to each day rather than each hour?)

(2)  He is (sometimes) fun to observe and even more fun is observing the people straining to find the good in him, only to find with the next revelation that he is a complete [you fill this bit in]. And for those readers here who think there really is a lot of good in him, note the ways in which his new cabinet picks try to dial back his more outlandish thoughts (especially on hugging Russia) and how allies are genuinely concerned he might give away secret agent names to the Russians.

(3) More importantly, Trump's very divisiveness is challenging us all in respect of values, attitudes and actions. Christians and non-Christians alike: who do we serve? what do we stand for? who matters in society? who is neighbour, enemy, alien and how will we love them? Talk is cheap. Trump's era will demand action from the chattering classes of Western societies.

(4) Despite all the "post-truth" naming of this new era in politics, I think we are going to find ourselves re-searching for plain truth and, consequentially, recalibrating our ability to call a lie a falsehood. But that journey will be tough and for a time we are going to be very confused about what is and is not true, who is and who is not reliable as a truth teller and as a discerner of lies. (Dust off those Orwellian volumes, 1984 and Animal Farm: essential guides for an era in which we are not certain whether Trump is a muppet or a puppet of Putin or whether Putin is playing a shell-game in which his greatest success is that we think Trump is his poodle when in fact he is not. Though he keeps Tweeting as though he is ...

(5) I think I said something about this last year, but Trump is illustrative of a significant way in which God's judgment is worked out in the course of history. Trump is precisely the president the USA and the West deserve when we have followed the devices and desires of our own hearts, lapping up immoral entertainment from Hollywood and its satellites and worshipping in the citadels of consumerist capitalism. We will focus on the latest Tweet from Trump but we should be focusing on why we have Trump and whether we can or cannot stem the rot which is killing Western civilization. (Memo to ourselves: the best way out of the inexorable judgment of God is through repentance.)

(6) Trump will re-focus our attention on the Book of Revelation. Most of the time this book makes no sense, save for some sense that "at the end of time" it will make sense because at that time The World Will Turn To Custard in Bizarre and Terrifying Ways. Maybe that time has come. (Expect a post or two on Revelation 13-17!)

(7) This may sound a bit perverse, but I think the world has been heading towards a major war for some time (think: China, Russia, Middle East, with or without American involvement) and rather than this time dragging on for decades through this century, just maybe Trump will hasten the day of culmination. I pray it might be largely a cyber and economic war, rather than a guns and bullets war.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I'm on holiday

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers.

I am on blogging holiday for a while - till mid-January-ish - unless the world blows up, which is slightly more likely since You Know Who (USA) and You Know Who (Russia) reignited the arms race.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

2017 will be a big year, in my view. Even bigger than 2016 has turned out to be!

My final wisdom for the year, especially pertinent on Christmas Day, courtesy of something my son Tweeted a while back:

Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in the fruit salad!

Boxing Day Postscript:

At the Midnight Service at St Barnabas Fendalton I preached a sermon more or less according to the following text. (My actual text had a few mores scribbled words than this version, but I have lost that!)

"Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

This year we are acutely aware that people in places such as Aleppo are in an especially unhappy situation. But closer to home we also find people in difficult situations illustrated by long queues of people outside the Auckland City Mission.

Isaiah knew about the threat of evil and oppression which stalks humanity. We heard his description of the situation using words such as “yoke,” “bar”, “rod,” and “boots.”

This year we have felt the rod of oppression and the trampling boots of the oppressors across our world and we end the year feeling next year could be worse rather than better.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

Yet here we are singing about light and life, greeting one another with “Merry Christmas,” and hearing readings about glad tidings of joy for all.
What is up with that?

What did Isaiah see in the midst of his dark day? He foresaw a child being born, a child full of hope and promise, serving Israel with powerful love rather than the love of power.

At the time Isaiah almost certainly thought this foresight was about the next royal baby to be born.

But for centuries no royal baby born in Israel quite matched the job description of the Prince of Peace given in that passage.

Then, and we know the story well, a baby was born, with royal lineage, in a very obscure way, placed in a feeding trough with no spare room anywhere else in a Bethlehem hostel.

And as people got to know that baby, as the baby grew to be a man, what Isaiah saw was determined to have come to pass.

Jesus was the Wonderful Counsellor or, as Paul wrote to Titus, “our great God and Saviour.”

All that is good. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the manifestation of our great God.

But there is this tiny challenge. When Christmas is not a happy Christmas for many people, has the promise of Isaiah’s prophecy been fulfilled?

Isaiah did not only foresee the coming of the Christ child, he foresaw a better world, talking of “endless peace” and the establishment of a just kingdom.

I think this challenge has to be met. We crave integrity. We want promises to match reality. 

That is why Trump won and Britain is leaving the EU. Voters in those places are tired of reality not matching politicians’ promises.

The shepherds give us a clue as to why we do not yet see Isaiah’s vision fulfilled. When told that Jesus is good news for the world they go to him.

Ever since some people, like the shepherds, have followed Jesus. But many have ignored Jesus, some have shunned him, a few have even gone further and persecuted his followers.

Even our beloved Press today [24 December 2016] has an editorial relegating Jesus to the sidelines and giving thanks for Santa Claus!

Isaiah’s vision will be fulfilled when we run towards Jesus rather than away from him. When we pay him homage, like the shepherds, rather than toss him to one side.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year. That is a challenge. At the least it is a challenge that we might help people discover or rediscover Jesus, the only way to endless peace and a just world.

Will we find our way to Jesus, like the shepherds?"