Monday, July 25, 2011

Do this, don't do that.... ah, the irony.

This is a kind of postscript to my recent series on Salvation Army Sacramental Theology (which starts here). I want to provide a selection of quotes about Christ's words of institution - "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:24). These are taken from a particular commentary (which will be revealed shortly) because I find them… well… ironic. Not because of what they say, but simply because of where they have been printed. More on that in a moment. For, now, here are the quotes...

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is it like to be you?

What is it like to be you?

What is it like to sleep on a park bench?
What is it like to be you?

What is it like to flee on a small boat?
What is it like to be you?

What is it like to be starving, with no food?
What is it like to be you? 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Dangerous" Degrees

One of the interesting stories in Salvation Army history is about Samuel Logan Brengle. Through a series of events Brengle was attracted to the Army to the point of desiring to become an Officer within its ranks. Here’s how David Rightmire has recounted this story in his biography of Brengle, Sanctified Sanity (pg 18-19).
Brengle arrived at the International Headquarters of The Salvation Army in London on June 1, 1887, to a lukewarm reception by William Booth. The Founder was not impressed with this new recruit, believing him to be of the "dangerous classes" (i.e. a man of education and culture) and hence unable to submit to Army discipline. Sam expressed his belief that the Holy Spirit had not only sanctified him, but had led him to offer his life in service within the Army. Brengle convinced the General of his sincerity by expressing his desire to join the ranks in order to minister self-sacrificially to the poor, stating: "I knew my only way up to heaven was by going down to the lowest of the low." He had passed his first test but was sent to be interviewed by the Chief of the Staff, Bramwell Booth. Once again, Brengle was labelled a member of the dangerous classes and warned not to waste his time in joining an organisation that he would probably leave in a year or two. Not to be rebuffed, the candidate persisted until Bramwell agreed to let him in on a trial basis.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More on same-sex marriage

How do I write further on this topic? I have been completely overwhelmed by the response I have received to my last post, On same-sex marriage. As I write this follow-up post the first one has just past 800 views. My blog has never seen traffic like this before, and I have been completely humbled by that.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Upcoming Events

There are a few events coming up which you might find interesting to attend.

Firstly, the Coutts Memorial Lecture will be on in both Sydney and Brisbane again this year. Lars Lydholm, a Salvationist from Denmark, will be speak on the topic "Human, Holy and Divine - the same thing? Reflections on modern Christology". Admission is free!

Sydney - 28 July, 2011 at 7:30pm
Booth College Conference Centre,
120 Kingsland Road
Bexley North, NSW 2207
here to RSVP via Facebook

Brisbane - 31 July, 2011 at 3:00pm
Carindale Salvation Army
202 Gallipoli Road,
Carina QLD 4152
Click here to RSVP via Facebook

The Sydney lecture will also be livestreamed at this link. Enter as a "guest".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On same-sex marriage

I’m a married to a loving wife. I’m a white male living in middle class Australia, with two kids, two fish and a cat. I live in an inner city suburb of the largest city in Australia, Sydney. I was born in Australia (Adelaide, no less, but that still counts) and have lived here all of my life. All of those factors combined put me in a position of power. Power I didn’t choose, or fight for, but power I’ve been given nonetheless. Add to that the fact that I am an Officer in The Salvation Army, which as an institution has earned a powerful voice in this country and my position of power is enhanced dramatically.

I don’t have to fight for my voice to be heard. I don’t live on the margins of society, and by and large I’m not prejudiced against, except perhaps that I’m not allowed to become a member at a one of those "women-only" gyms… not that I really want to.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

St Andrews Patristic Symposium - Program

Since my last post I discovered that the program is now available too, which includes more details on speakers and their respective dates. I'll be speaking on 14 September.

See you there.

Friday, July 8, 2011

St Andrews Patristic Symposium

I'd like to let you know about St Andrew's Patristic Symposium which is coming up in August and September. The last two years have focussed upon two of the Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, so naturally this year is looking at Gregory of Nyssa. Needless to say, I'm quite excited about this. I've had a paper proposal accepted for this and will be speaking on the theological foundations of Gregory's polemic against slavery, often considered the first outright Christian condemnation of the practice. Here's the flyer for more information. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This morning I was meditating on Psalm 118:6 "With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?" During the time I spent contemplating this verse (particularly the words "do not fear") I felt the need to write. I grabbed my journal and in a few minutes a poem had formed. I don't consider myself a wordsmith, rather I'm finding the process itself to be spiritually cathartic. I hope others may find it beneficial too.

The crippling vice of tension,
gripping at my soul.
Desperate to stop my progress,
to weaken my resolve.
I feel my muscles tighten,
my mind, it turns to mud.
But hear the voice of Jesus,
his comforting words of love.

"Do not be afraid. No matter
what the world may say.
Do not listen, either, to
your own voice of dismay.
For I am Lord of all;
in charge of all you see.
And I am with you always,
your enemies bow to me."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Salvation Army Sacramental Theology - Part 5

This post follows on from Part One, Two, Three, and Four in a series on The Salvation Army's position regarding the sacraments. This will be the final post in this series.

I start with a few cautions for us to consider.
  1. The "Prophetic" calling of The Salvation Army - Of late there has been a particular emphasis on our "Testimonial" role on the possibility of a Christian life lived "without sacramental ritual". The big questions for any prophet are (a) are you really saying what God wants you to say, and is that supported by Scripture, and (b) what evidence do you have to support such claims. In response to (a) there is probably more support for an observant position than a non-observant one, and for (b) there have not been any other denominations adopt a stance. Sure, they respect us and admire us, but no one's joining us. Our prophetic role is either ineffectual, or needs closer scrutiny.
  2. Who's decision was this? James Pedlar has closely compared Salvation Story (1998) with the latest Handbook of Doctrine through a couple of posts, including a very interesting table. All of these can be accessed through his blog here. One significant shift has been the change in language at one particular point. In Salvation Story it reads: “Early in our history, The Salvation Army chose not to observe specific sacraments as prescribed rituals.” In the Handbook of Doctrine it reads: "Early in our history, The Salvation Army was led of God not to observe specific sacraments, that is baptism and the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion, as prescribed rituals." Again, is there support in Scripture for this claim? I join with James on this particular point and suggest that a little more reticence should be displayed here before jumping to such a conclusion.
  3. Let's be careful about our "sacramental songs" - Whenever this topic comes up in Salvation Army circles inevitably someone says "My life must be Christ's broken bread, my love his outpoured wine." I'm actually a little sick of it. For two reasons; (a) it normally stops the conversation and so stops people from actually "thinking" about what they're saying and (b) what have we done with Christ's words here? He was the one who said "this is my body" and we go and say "actually 'No' Lord, my life is your broken bread, thank you very much." Is there not just a tinge bit of arrogance in those words? I certainly respect General Albert Osborne and his genuine attempt to encourage Salvationists to live a life that demonstrates Christ's love for others, but when we use these lyrics as the crux of our sacramental theology, we have a significant exegetical problem. The astute might notice that I said "songs", too. I always wonder why "O Boundless Salvation" doesn't get more mileage when we discuss this? "My sins they are many, the stains are so deep... Thy waters can cleanse me, come roll over me." Sounds a little like baptism to me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Salvation Army Sacramental Theology - Part 4

This post follows on from Part One, Two and Three in a series on The Salvation Army's position regarding the sacraments. In the last post I summarised the commonly stated reasons for the Army's non-observant stance. I've not gone into much detail for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this ground has been very well trodden by several other authors and so I don't see much benefit in travelling the same ground again. Secondly, and more importantly for me, I'd rather focus upon the rites that are a part of our worship. This is more often than not a significant omission in discussions regarding the place of the sacraments in The Salvation Army. This is what I'd like to discuss in this next installment. Firstly, though, a story...

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...