Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rob Bell... a universalist?

Today I was surprised to see that Rob Bell was trending in Twitter. Normally  the "top ten" of the twitterverse is reserved for the likes of Justin Beiber et al. You know, the people that all the kids are into these days... But, Rob Bell? How did that happen? I had to find out... One click, and inspecting just a few tweets revealed why. That theological dirty word has been thrown at someone again like the proverbial "mud" and as always, it's stuck... universalism. Rob Bell is a universalist. Well, that's what we think he is at least. He must be if he titles his book "Love Wins", doesn't he?

I've posted on this topic before here, and received some interesting responses at that time. Again, I'm not a universalist myself, but I wish I was. I wish that everyone "made it in the end'. I'm certainly sympathetic to theologians who propose universalism as the way things will end. I think God might even be sympathetic as well. The theologian that most interests me, Gregory of Nyssa, was a universalist, and even suggests that the devil himself will be redeemed "in the end" (I've posted on that before here). It certainly takes some bravery, at the very least.

So, what's the problem? 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Priesthood of All Believers?

The theological concept of the “Priesthood of all believers” is one that is thrown around frequently. This statement suggests that those in full-time ministry, and in my denomination this means Officers, do not undergo an ontological change upon being ordained and commissioned. Rather their being commissioned as Officers (or ordained as ministers in other contexts) provides a framework for a new “role” within the church. The associated responsibilities of that role are therefore to be undertaken under the authority of the community of faith. The way one enters into that “role”, in The Salvation Army context, is through the Officer’s covenant – grace-based and enabled, and affirmed by the community of believers. However, there is a significant problem in our day and age. Luther is given most credit for the employment of this phrase, but we’re in an entirely different context to him. So can we still refer to the “priesthood of all believers” today in a way that is faithful to his meaning? I would like to suggest that we cannot. Here’s why.

Luther was in a setting which required him to go to the extreme polar opposite on many theological issues just to make his point heard. For example, within his doctrine of sanctification he speaks of “two kinds of righteousness” – the actual righteousness of the believer, and the “alien” righteousness of Christ. The word “alien” used by Luther here is deliberately extreme. The mediaeval theology that he was wrestling against suggested that it was possible for a person to somehow be “righteous enough” in order to be justified (classically known as works-righteousness). Luther’s point, based upon his reading of Romans in particular, is “No, you need a righteousness that is not your own”; i.e. an “alien” righteousness – the righteousness of Christ, and this is imputed (counted as theirs, but not actually theirs) to the believer through faith.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Free Funerals for Asylum Seekers.

One of the darkest days in recent Australian history had an even greater impact because it was captured on film. On December 15, 2010 a boat full of refugees crash into rocks on Christmas Island, which lies to the North-West of the mainland of Australia. Tragically many of the people on board did not survive, including children and babies. I know that many people in Australia were shocked by the images that were shown on our TV screens. We watched, along with the helpless bystanders, in disbelief at what was transpiring.

Of course in the days to come questions were asked about what could have, or should have, been done to prevent this tragedy as society angrily sought someone to blame. Was this due to Government policy? Where was the Navy? So on and so on, the questions kept coming.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Moving ahead... with your help

This blog,, has been up and running now for just over two years. In that time there have been over 4000 individual page views from an audience all over the world. This has been greatly encouraging to see. I hope the ministry of this site continues to expand as we post on issues that are interesting, challenging and contribute to God's mission in and for the world.

In order to move ahead I've firstly changed the web address for this site. It is now located at Why not bookmark this new site in your favourites? Also, you can choose to "Follow" this site by clicking on the button on the right hand side of this screen. 

You can also help this site expand in the following ways...

Me and my crazy cat, Dash
  1. Suggest topics or questions for consideration or debate
  2. Submit a post. I would love to have guest contributors here.
  3. Comment on posts as they occur to contribute to the discussion
  4. Pray for me and this site.
You can contact me by emailing

Thanks again for your ongoing support. 

God bless


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are we on the verge of a crisis?

It was pointed out to me recently that there are fewer and fewer musicians in The Salvation Army than 15 - 20 years ago. It's a complicated scenario, but I would like to suggest one contributing factor to this. I suggest that this is the collateral damage of the Worship Wars. I don't need to describe to you what happened during the 90s in particular when whatever was "old" was considered "bad" and so abandoned for the "new and relevant" worship and mission tools. Part of what has been lost, or is being lost in the vast majority of corps is brass bands. Now, I don't want to open up old wounds, nor "take sides" in a dead debate from last century. That's not my agenda here. I just want to highlight what we lost when we abandoned banding on a large scale in The Army.

Sermon: Matthew 13:1

I love questions. Many here would be aware that I’m working on a PhD in theology. I’ve also been a teacher of theology, worship, and critica...