Tag Archives: John 1


The Avengers, The Justice League and the desire for a few more gods

During the height of the New Atheism shout contest Richard Dawkins used to quip that Christianity had reduced the number of gods from hundreds down to one, and he all he wanted to do was go one god further.  However, it seems that the current spate of superhero films reveals a hankering to reverse that trend.  The same instincts that gave humanity Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes and Pluto, are the same instincts that give us Hulk, Batman, Superman, Antman, Wonder Woman, Black Widow and Black Panther.

Part of this is the hankering for a decent story.

By this view, the world (or let’s use the word ‘universe’ so beloved of the genre) of monotheism is too sterile, too virtuous, too consistent to permit any good stories.  However with a pantheon of heroes you can have capricious gods, amoral gods, vengeful gods, strong gods; bound by a noble sense of duty and justice, eager to wreck vengeance on behalf of deceased family members (usually a parent). You can get them attacking each other, finding out if there is anyway that Batman would have a chance against Superman, or if Spiderman’s web was stronger than Captain America’s shield.

Read On

Seven Things About The Divine Word

J.I. Packer once said of himself “Packer by name, packer by nature.”  He loves compressed, theological density.

Here outlines the seven things that John’s prologue tells us about the Word:

In the beginning as the Word – the Word’s eternity

And the Word was with God – the Word’s personality

And the Word was God – the Word’s deity

Through him all things were made – The Word creating

In him was life – The Word animating

The life was the light of men – The Word revealing

The Word became flesh – The Word incarnate

(based on page 62)

You’re not the boss of me


Then the whole congregation reads these.  Everyone is told to read the first commandment and then turn to the people around them and say “There is a God and it is not you.”


Ortberg notes the change in person between the 2nd and 3rd commandments – from the first to the third person.  The ancient scribes used to say that this was the point at which the Israelites could bear no more of God, and so this was now Moses who was speaking.


Then a long discourse on Freedom – and the difference between freedom to do something, freedom from, and freedom for something.


This freedom “from” is the way that we want to think about things today, that we want rid of a few extra commandments.  We don’t want to have a boss, we want to be free.  We think about the freedom from external constraints and expansion of personal rights.


I am free to drink as much as I want, and then I drink, and it starts to get a hold of me, of my marriage, of my job, and I want to give up, and I am not free.  I want to stop drinking but I can’t.


I want to live with a happy optimistic attitude, but I don’t


I want to quit yelling at my kids, and I want to be the person that manages anger really really well


I want to be less selfish, but I am free,


And this form of freedom is very different from external constraints.


Nelson Mandela in prison was constrained in his cell, he was more free than his guards


The deeper freedom is the freedom for becoming the person I was designed to be.  And to get that freedom is a kind of irony, that we begin this freedom by turning over our freedom to a higher power.


And then I begin to receive power to be free from alcohol.


There is a moral order, there is a centre of the universe, I am not master of my own destiny, and I am not master of the ship.


There is a strong connection in the Biblical writers, between law and freedom (Psalm 119 and James – the law that gives freedom)


It is the second kind of freedom that exists in the ten commandments, because often when we exercise freedom to do something apart from God we end up enslaving ourselves.


When I make desires my God, I end up in slavery

When I give my desires to God, I end up being free.


God Is Worth Obeying

There is a temptation to think of God as the one who enslaves us in an oppressive world.  But it is far from being in, as Hitchens puts it, a divine North Korea.


Tells story of a little boy looking out of his window one day, a strong willed boy aged two or three, and what he does in his house is gets chair, and puts it under the curtain, and stands on it, and looks out at the window.  And is mother notices this, and decides to just sneak in beside him, as he is looking out the window, staring ou at the world, and she spies his little white legs sticking out under the curtains, and as she does he hears him utterly seriously and sombrely say to himself “I gotta get outa here”


Then we think about Covenants in the ancient world – that there were two kinds of covenants – unilateral covenants between a strong and a weaker party, and bilateral between two equal parties.


This has the hallmarks of a Unilateral covenant, but in such a covenant you are normally asking the question “What does the stronger party get out of this?” normally it would be places for animals to graze or a water supply; but here it is that God has a people to bless – fickle, made up of wrong and failed intentions, but nevertheless a people to bless.


The other thing is that way that there are two copies of the Covenant.  Traditionally people understand this as because there was only room on each tablet for five covenants, but there were two copies, because both copies were to be kept by the people, and in the Ark of the Covenant the two of them would be together.


285 times in the Bible, it is written that we are the God of the covenant.


We do not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature.


I would never indulge the sinful nature, everyone gossips, I just want to be able to sin in moderation.


No one reserves sexual intimacy for marriage, everyone wants to decide that for themselves


Then a thing about sexuality, and about the fact that this generation do not suppose that sex is meaningless, the great lie of this generation is that they believe that they get to determine what the meaning of that sexual encounter is.


This idea of there being a moral order is easier to see if we look at other eras.


Illustration of encountering someone in the 1860s in the South, and confronting them about slavery, and asking them to give up their slaves, set them free, and publicly back their rights, and they would be horrified, that this would estrange them from their family, from their workmates, it would seem odd, and yet this is not up for negotiation.  We live in this morally ordered world.


God is not putting racism up for a vote, and if everybody thought that racism was okay, then everybody was wrong.


Sometimes you enter into a community where what looks impossible in one place, sometimes is possible.


Tim Keller quotes an early Christian writer, Diognetus (might be here, but can’t find the quote http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/diognetus.html)  who wrote that “We share our table with all, we do not share our bed with all”


This just stumped people.


This was the opposite to pagan society where people were stingy with their hospitality, but promiscuous with their sexuality.  The Christians reversed this.


They were promiscuous with their money and stingy with their bodies, and nobody had ever seen a community like that before.


The community was like that, and the world was stunned.


The challenge is to form a community, so that everyone in the area will flourish.


A generation which is free from spiritual drift, for a transformation relationship with Jesus

In Authentic Community with each other


Question – can the world become stunned again?


So we will be stingy with our bodies and promiscuous with our body

So we will be stingy with our self-promotion and promiscuous with our servanthood.


So that we will be free.


Imagine that you are living a life that you cannot be free, and you are constrained and held in by addictions and habit, and then you hear the words “Romans 8” – there is now no condemnation.


You get those people who cannot go to God, because they are not ready to be with him.


You don’t have to get into shape, you don’t have to get cleaned up first, because God made a covenant and he is sticking to it


When Jesus died he made a new covenant, based on Jesus’ obedience not ours,

He has already set us free.

Your Word Is Like Honey

Fine linguification enthralls and pleasures; it punches, wounds, caresses, flies, swoops and embraces.  Language grows.  It does not stagnate in tidy categories, inflexible rules and grammatical strait-jackets.  As any student of a language knows – what takes the time is learning the exceptions.  When you learn the exceptions you know the thing has a life: it isn’t Esperanto.

And because language does not fit; because language moves as well as observes; because language writhes and wriggles and cannot be tied down; because it is always open to newness; language gives pleasure.  It takes one to new places, and we are not always sure how we are getting home.

And when the Bible talks about language, the comparison can be with honey (juicy and sweet); when it uses words, these are often played with; and when God comes he is described as language.