Friday, September 11, 2009

Homelands Delegation in Canberra

I was very glad to be able to offer a small amount of financial support for a delegation of Indigenous people from East Arnhem Land to travel to Canberra to put their case to the Federal Government. The Northern Territory government plans to restrict its funding to a small number of urban population centres thus requiring the people who live in their traditional Homelands to travel out of country to access services.

The delegation met with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin;Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health & Regional Services Delivery, Warren Snowdon; Senator Mark Arbib; and advisors to the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

This short video shows some of the delegates expressing their thoughts on the meeting. I pray that the concerns of this delegation will not fall on deaf ears, and that the federal government will put pressure on the NT government to ensure a fair deal for the people in the Homelands. You can learn more about the Homelands by watching the following video.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

This is a must read for clearing the air on the substance of Arminian theology. It is not Pelagianism; it is not semi-Pelagianism (why do people never say "semi-Augustinianism"?); It does not involve any kind of works-righteousness system. It does not have human free will at its centre but rather a view of God as a God of grace and love. Olsen is very fair to Calvinists, courteous and irenic. He takes his fellow Arminians to task for misrepresenting Calvinism. Any further ongoing public debates between Calvinists and Arminians must take Olsen's account into consideration. For all this praise there are some weaknesses in the book. There is a considerable amount of repetition as each chapter is designed as a stand alone rejoinder to each of the 10 myths covered. (The author concedes this problem in the introduction.) Connected to this arrangement is a certain sameness to the chapters as each one follows an almost identical format. The myth is stated and then refuted by citations from Arminius, Episcopius, Limborch (who proves over and over to be the real problem, rather than Arminius), John Wesley, nineteenth century Methodists (this means Watson, and Pope in Britain and Ralston and Miley in America), and twentieth century Arminians, including the Nazarene theologian H. Orton Wiley and frequently Thomas Oden, who disclaims the label "Arminian" but clearly holds Arminian views as is clear in his "Transforming Power of Grace." Olsen's dependence on Wesley is almost entirely from Oden's "John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity." It would have engendered more confidence on the part of this reader if Olsen had demonstrated a more independent grasp of Wesley's writings. Nonetheless, Oden's work is a safe guide to Wesley so nothing really goes awry. Overall, I am enthusiastic about this work and hope it will be read widely by those on both sides of this theological divide.

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Living as God's Holy People: Pauline Perspectives on Christian Holiness

New Testament theologian, Dr. Kent Brower of Nazarene Theological College, Manchester (pictured above), treated his audience to a preview of his forthcoming book on Paul’s theology of holiness at the Inaugural Conference of the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Studies held at Booth College 14-15 August. Representatives of the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, and the Wesleyan Methodist Church were part of the organising committee for this stimulating series of lectures.

In Paul’s theology, holiness is an essential aspect of God’s purposes for his people. Through faith in Christ we have peace with God, a peace marked by the end of our old pattern of living, because sin’s reign has been broken. There can be no genuine conversion apart from the sanctifying work of the Spirit who produces within believers the cruciform character of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit flourishes in love-based, grace-restored relationships and holiness is profoundly communal. While the Spirit lives in individuals, Paul understands the people of God in community as the dwelling place of the Spirit. God’s holy people are to exhibit a contagious holiness as they engage in holy mission and holy love in the world.

Each day began with worship and each of the four lectures was followed by a time of stimulating discussion. A number of scholars presented capsule summaries of their current research in an information session on Saturday afternoon which also saw the official launch of the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Research. Current research topics included John Wesley as a pastoral theologian, holiness and the Incarnation, Gregory of Nyssa on holiness, and Edward Sugden on entire sanctification. Dr. Brower was interviewed on Jon Cleary’s Sunday Night ABC Radio programme on 30 August. The podcast of the interview can be heard by visiting the programme's website by clicking this link.

The Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Research promotes and supports research on the life, work and times of John and Charles Wesley, their historical and theological antecedents, their successors in the Wesleyan tradition, and contemporary scholarship in the Wesleyan tradition. This includes areas such as theology, history, biblical studies, education, ethics, literature, mission, philosophy, pastoral studies, practical theology, and social theology.

Some of the organisers of the Conference: Graeme Durston, David McEwan, Glen O'Brien (at rear); Bec Cundasamy, Adam Couchman, Bruce Allder (front row)

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