<<< I am a backslider…

Emotions are really terrible things to live with. I find that especially true since I was brought up in a church environment that places such a high premium on the awareness of my personal guilt as a sign of my human depravity that stands against the will of a holy God. That’s why there is always that lingering feeling of guilt on my part whenever I would say that I am a Christian. This statement is quite interesting and at the same time hypocritical as far as I feel, ultimately because for the past couple of years I’ve found myself detached to whatever semblance my Evangelical Christian heritage has prescribed as becoming of a follower of Christ.

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Graphic novels, The Fall and the nuisance of human existence

I often find it strange that in my case theological constructs are derived out of my exposure to what many dub as juvenile entertainment, which includes graphic novels[1]. Perhaps there is something that I hit upon as profound in the action-packed artworks that are situated in separate panels that represent individual scenes which make up a plot. After all, human experience unfolds in story and its meaning is fashioned from places, plots, and players fused in real-time[2].

In like fashion Biblical narratives function as vehicles of divine revelation that helps us makes sense (or better yet find) our place and meaning in this sizeable and ever changing storyline that we call life. That perhaps explains why we often find ourselves identifying with the characters in Bible stories because in a way they lay bare a part of ourselves that we exhibit we whenever we cope with the harsh realities of life as well as when we feel like we are brought face to face to the actuality of the divine in our midst.

In this reflection for this class on Christian anthropology I would like to turn our attention on the primordial creation narrative of The Fall, looked at from the vantage point of a graphic novel: Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, where I will attempt to find parallels between the two comic book storylines in relation to the fall of man and the predicament of human existence that follows it.

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The Protestant Reformation: A critical assessment

The Reformation is a religious movement that began in 1517 as a reaction to medieval Catholic doctrines and practices, which broke up the institutional unity of the church in Western Europe and established the third great branch of Christianity, called Protestantism, which can be distinguished for its emphasis on the absolute and sufficient authority of the Bible and on justification by faith alone.

Many factors such as feudalism, social, political, economic as well as religious life of several countries paved the way for the conditions that resulted in the Reformation. Furthermore, nationalistic fervour, rise of lay piety, theological awareness and humanism also contributed to the development of the Reformation which led to the renewal of morals, worship, liturgy, spirituality as well as study of Christian doctrines.

Several fundamental doctrines can be found in the four Solas that are stated in the Augsburg Confession of 1530 that was edited by Philipp Melanchthon, a professor at the University of Wittenberg and close friend of Martin Luther sums up the theological thrust of the Reformation movement.

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 13: Bibliography

Bibles

  • Authorized King James Version (KJV)
  • Christian Community Bible (CCB) 1971 Claretian Communications
  • English Standard Version (ESV) 2007 Crossway Bibles
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB) 1995 Lockman Foundation
  • New International Version (NIV) 1984 International Bible Society
  • New Living Translation (NLT) 2007 Tyndale House Foundation
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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 12: Conclusion

The most striking theme in the whole letter is the denunciation of the rich and the powerful, and the corresponding concern for the poor and the oppressed. Which is evident in the vehement denunciation of social injustice, oppression and exploitation, above all in the direct attack on the rich traders and merchants (4:13-17) is integrally connected (cf. also 4:1-12), and the same point is sharply evident also in 2:6-7, even though this section is dealing mainly with the issue of favouritism within the community, and is not addressed directly to the poor. James in this section exposes ruthlessly the sources of power relationships and the causes of conflict, oppression and social unjustice. To live for personal gain and to exploit the poor and defenceless is the epitome of evil; above all it is in direct contradiction to what God requires (2:5). Yet at the same time James insists that it is not simply the direct exploitation and oppression of the poor by the rich that constitutes the problem. It is also the obsequious favouring of the rich and powerful, for the favour it is hoped they will bestow, and the contemptuous treatment of the poor, because they can offer nothing, that serves to reinforce the injustice, suffering and imbalance of power (2:1-7). James sets these issues in eschatological perspective, above all that of final judgement[1].

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 11: Mercy should have the final say

Therefore, being guilty as charged James in verse 12 calls upon his audience to be responsible and own up to their guilt as they are accountable by they have done to judgement while verse 13 speaks of mercy being rendered only unto those who renders mercy (reminiscent of the Mosaic antecedent ‘eye for an eye’ in Leviticus 24:19–21, Exodus 21:22–25, and Deuteronomy 19:21) while at the same time reminding his audience of the paradoxical statement where mercy triumphs over judgement. In a way this shows that as far as dealing with sin (partiality) is concerned justice must have the first word, however it cannot have the last as mercy is important because James in writing this epistle reproofs his audience so that they would repent and in so doing have their fellowship restored regardless of their economic standing, thus putting into effect the royal law according to the Scripture, that is to: love our neighbour as ourselves!

The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 10: Guilty in accordance to the law

In verses 8-11 James’ brothers, his co-servants in Christ those who belong to the twelve tribes scattered among nations (1:1), are now reminded of their identity which finds itself in their history as the people upon whom God disclosed His divine will according to the law.

Verse 8 echoes what was spoken of the Lord in Leviticus 19:18 which find its place within what scholars call as ‘the Holiness Code[1]’ of Israel. The code calls on the people of Israel to separated from the rest of the world because God has chosen them in doing so they are to demonstrate their unique relationship with God by disassociating themselves from profane worldliness and by their rituals and by obeying the commands in the Law which includes exercising equality as a demonstration of justice and righteousness with injunction to “love one’s neighbour as oneself” (Lev. 19:15). While, Jesus emphasized that the moral requirements of the law –justice, mercy and faith –were the heart of God’s will for Israel and were to be the norms governing its life as a people of God. Jesus spoke of the entire law as summarized in two commands: love of God and neighbour[2] (Mat. 22:37-39).

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 9: The implication of guilt

Notice James implicates his brothers’ of their fault by posting a rhetorical question: “has God not chosen the poor…?” This question indicates the expectation of an affirmative answer, because the church knew well that God had chosen the poor, since this concept of God’s preferential option for the poor is already deeply rooted in both Jewish and Christian thought[1].

Notice also how James clearly distinguishes the type of rich person about whom he is speaking. Instead of merely referring to him as “the rich,” he writes “a man in gold rings in fine clothing” –characteristic adornment of a wealthy person[2]. Furthermore, James emphasized that the God whom they serve as co-servants, the God who has implanted his word upon them has: “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom,” on the other hand James also highlights that this divine option for the poor is a promise that can only be claimed by the poor who loves God –thus the poor who are part of their faith community, and it is here where the irony of the situation lies.

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The Scandal of Partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 8: Partiality in their midst

Having set the stage in his introduction, James now turns to discuss one of the major themes he has introduced, that of wealth and charity. A discussion that expands on the previous statements in 1:9-11 and 1:22-27[1]. Following James’ theme of responding to God’s implanted word in action in the previous chapter (1:22-25), the author now starts situate the behavioural patterns that ought to be manifested by his brothers and co-servants who have received the word. He does so with the emphasis of practicing equality within the church, as James clearly believes that the poor have a very important place in the church because of the levelling effect of the Christian gospel, to which he argues that true faith has no place for the social distinction of the world.[2]

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 7: James 2:1-14 and the Scandal of partiality

A few weeks ago a friend introduced me to a British television sitcom entitled, Rev. Which follows the life of Anglican priest, Adam Smallbone, who is newly promoted from a sleepy rural parish to the busy, inner-city world of St Saviour’s, in East London[1]. The series revolves around Adam’s ordeal of running a modern inner-city church, with a reluctant wife and a depleted, motley congregation where every day throws up a moral conflict for Adam. His door must always be open – to urban sophisticates with ulterior motives, the chronically lonely, the lost, the homeless, the poor and the insane.

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