Notes on Colossians part 1
[Editor's note: starting today we have a two week set of posts from the pen of Dick Lucas based on work he prepared for a conference in Scotland. Enjoy this rare treat!]
My overall title is The Colossian Error: Confronting Elitism in Today's Church
- Researching the ‘Colossian Heresy’ has occupied scholars for over a century, with little, if any result. Most likely it was a futile exercise.
- In a famous essay (1973) Dr Morna Hooker ‘demolished’ the notion of false teachers in the Colossian Christian community. But her view does not really account for the language of 2:8-23 (Oxford Bible Commentary).
- Heresy, that is teaching contrary to Christian orthodoxy, probably opened up a false trail. In this study, the trouble makers will be presumed orthodox in the fundamentals, but influenced strongly by the currents of thought around them (of course). Such would include Jewish and pagan pressures, as well as that incipient gnosticism that remains with us to this day. Comparable pressures today can be hedonistic, therapeutic, utopian, conformist etc.
- Moule writes of a Colossian ‘Error’, sufficiently serious for Paul ‘to describe adherents as detached from Christ’ (2:19). Similarly, he speaks of the Colossian ‘Mistake’, that ‘completeness’ was not to be found in Christ alone ‘but must be sought by additional religious rights and beliefs’. Paul’s medicine for both ‘Error’ and ‘Mistake’ was not denunciation, but solid instruction of the great Christology (1:15-23). In Colossians, positive teaching comes first.
- The position taken here is that all we can know of what was going on in Colosse is to be found in the text of the letter itself; and this not by the ‘warning passage’ alone (2:8-23), but by the part each and every section plays in what is a coherent, integrated and carefully structured presentation.
John RW Stott (1921-2011)
We at the Proclamation Trust gladly pay our tribute today to John Stott as both friend and example. Soon after WWII it was he, as the new Rector of All Souls, who set an unsurpassed standard of expository preaching that has had a profound effect on successive generations of pastor-teachers worldwide. This – so we who were privileged to hear him in early days were persuaded – was how it should be done! Unashamed submission to the authority of Scripture, manifest integrity in handling the text, brilliant clarity, irresistable logic – all this combined with the attraction of a man of God evidently concerned for you and your welfare – in this world and the next; no wonder this ministry drew such crowds of enrapt and willing listeners.
It seems that we live in a day when famous names are all too easily forgotten, even of those gifted people to whom is owed much of what we now enjoy. At the Proclamation Trust, it is our desire to acknowledge our debt to this man and his ministry. Of course, John Stott was a leader responsible for a host of outstanding initiatives. But, at this moment, we recall a preacher and teacher to whom words were given in rich abundance to point the way to an understanding of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. It's a great legacy. Let's preserve it and share it.
Keller: cancer and resurrection
In this short excerpt, Keller explains how having cancer was like a death and resurrection moment.
Keller: dealing with criticism
Here's one of the snippets we'll post from my interview with Tim Keller at this year's EMA. This one has some helpful things about dealing with criticism.
John Stott with Christ, better by far
We've just heard that John Stott died peacefully today. More information here.
10 things to do before you die?
Apparently cycling through the Rotherhithe Tunnel is one of the "ten things to do before you die" – or, possibly, one of the ten things that will bring this moment forward. It is one of London's 42 river crossings, but one of the scariest – a 1½ mile tunnel under the Thames designed for horse and carriage (small bore, narrow lanes – cyclists and pedestrians allowed).
I cycled it last night as I was in the area and it was the only way to get across the River where I was without taking a ferry (cost £5). There are two ways to do it. You can cycle on the pedestrian pavement. It is 4 foot wide. There aren't many pedestrians (according to Transport for London only 34 use it each day!). You do have cars hurtling by you, but at least you have a lane to yourself. However, strictly speaking, that's illegal.
You should cycle on the road holding the traffic up (although it's only a 20mph limit, so you should only hold traffic up right at the top of the climb). That's legal and that's what I did.
Cycling websites tell me I was mad to follow the rules. It would actually be safer/easier/funner if I took the pavement. And part of me thought that safer/easier/funner certainly had appeal. But I decided to keep to the rule book. And I lived to tell the tale. It was OK!
it got me thinking about law. All believers are under the royal law of Christ. As our spirits wrestle with the mighty Spirit of God, the truth is that doing things our way is often, we think, safer/easier/funner. But ultimately Christ's law is for our good. Even when we don't see it. Keeping off the pavement was actually a very safe option. No one can overtake you in the tunnel. You can set the pace. You're actually safest on the road.
Christ's way is ultimately for our good and even though my spirit tries to persuade me otherwise, I must do what the Spirit (capital S) wants me to do.
I love reading and spend a lot of my time reading, as do many pastors. So what do you do over the summer break?
I leave the Christian books at home. At least, when I'm on holiday I take books that are Christian and devotional only – good for my soul – rather than work related review books or books about preaching. I need to do that in order to relax, refresh, unwind and recharge. I also take some escapist books: so here's my summer list.
- For Christian devotion I'm taking Richard Sibbe's sermons Josiah's Reformation although I see on Amazon that Mike Reeves is the joint author (Dr Who has nothing on Reeves' time travelling skills).
- For education I'm going to finish Windbag Montefiore's Jerusalem – which to date I'm only struggling through
- For escapism, I've got Jasper Fforde's latest, One of our Thursdays is missing. If you've never seen these books, they are odd, stupid and enormous fun.
- For sheer adventure, I've been reading through Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey novels. There are 20 and I've been reading them a few months and I'm up to number 12. Real boys own stuff. Perfect for sitting by a French river.
- For emotion, I'm going to try Mendlessohn is on the roof by Jiri Weil.
Oh, and my Bible (reading through updated NIV at the moment). Thank goodness for the kindle….
Keswick delight: Word to the world
I'm away from the office at the moment speaking at the 2011 Keswick Convention. This is my first time, and it seems to be a great occasion, though obviously I am biased. Keswick in the sun is simply stunning with Skiddaw in the background. My cottage overlooks Helvellyn. Gorgeous. Yesterday's Radio 4 service was reecorded at Keswick last week and you can listen in for a while on the iplayer here. Worth the time. Apparently Helen Rosevere last week was outstanding. Patrick Fung and Ajith Fernando (who speaks on the recorded service) were also exceptionally good.
The value of a good no.2
It's all over. For the one regular reader (hello, PS!) who loves cycling too, the Tour de France is gawn. One of the best that I can remember with twists and turns right up to the end. But, at the risk of repeating myself (I think I may have said this last year), it has reminded me again of the need for a good no.2. Teams in the tour are made up of nine cyclists with, mostly, one leader (sometimes two – a climber and a sprinter). The rest of the team exist to pull the leader along, protect him from the elements and other riders and make sure he gets to the finish first.
Their is hardly a glorious job. But it is important – so important, in fact, that they have a name – domestique. Domestiques are well paid and may be required to do all number of things for their team. For example, if the main rider crashes they may be required to give up their bike or wait behind to pace the leader back (this happened to Sky's Geraint Thomas who lost so much time doing so, he was out of the running for his young rider prize). They are not the glory boys – but they make the teams work. All fascinating stuff and what makes the Tour so intriguing.
And it's not a lot different in church life. Leaders need good no2s. That will look different in different models of church. In a small village church with a single pastor it may be a good lay elder or churchwarden. In a large church it may be a good assistant or associate – or the role that US churches sometimes have Executive Pastor. Such men are relatively rare. That is because those who go into church ministry are often leaders in their own right (by definition) and so taking no.2 spots is hard.
But, I would suggest, it is also Christian in the sense that not wanting glory or standing for ourselves and considering others before ourselves are all great Christian virtues. Maybe you're this kind of person? Maybe you've always wanted your "own" church? Maybe you've always wanted to be chairing the meetings and setting the agenda? But perhaps you'd be a really good no.2? We need those too.
The picture shows Mark Cavendish (British rider) with his lead out man, Mark Renshaw. (background) who pulls out of the race at the last minute to let Cavendish through.
For the last few weeks I've been trying out a new iPhone app designed by our IT manager here at PT, Andy Geers. This is the sort of thing he knocks up in his spare time (in fact it was a holiday project) to keep himself from getting too restless. I am one of those people (you probably are too) that is never satisfied with my prayer life and needs to constantly juggle things around to keep it fresh. I have a paper prayer diary and used to tear it up every few months just because I knew that if I prayed for Aunt Edna on Tuesday every week, even that kind of regularity would drive staleness into my praying.
So, I've enjoyed using PrayerMate although I have had to be adaptable. The app allows you to set up categories and then determine how often you want to pray for items in that category. You want regular prayers? Just a few items in the category. Church members (I'd love to be able to upload a list, but it's not quite that sophisticated) and a larger category means items don't come around so quickly.
But adapting has been good for me as it has ignited some freshness into praying. There is also the option to include Biblical prayers, which functions as another category, but I could cut and paste prayers from my Bible app.
It's an administrative tool of course. It's not going to make an unprayerful man prayerful. But as an administrative tool I've found it really helpful. It's replaced my little notebook and means, because it's on my phone, it's with me whereever I am. And at $2.99 (about £1.85) it's even cheaper than my little Molesekine notebook….. Follow the link above.