Duke Convocation 2010


Audio recordings of the main lectures and worship services from the 2010 Duke Divinity School Convocation Conference are now available.

The conference was entitled ‘The Living Witness: Tradition, Innovation and the Church‘  – the introduction to the conference on the Duke website is as follows:

How do we witness to the timeless truth of the Reign of God in this age of rapid-fire change, an age in which a cell phone is hopelessly out of date before the contract expires?

Such a challenge requires us to take risks, to innovate, and to explore our work across many disciplines – all in ways  that remain grounded in our Christian tradition and are framed by theological reflection.  Explore the future of Christian witness to God’s unfolding reign in the world alongside respected leaders and creative scholars from across the church—including Bishop N.T. Wright, journalist and author Andy Crouch, pastor Rob Bell, and Bishop Vashti McKenzie in addition to Duke Divinity faculty.

Download the various talks for free from here.

Tim Keller – Preaching hell in a tolerant age


Tim Keller posted a really insightful article on SermonCentral about preaching hell in a tolerant age:

The young man in my office was impeccably dressed and articulate. He was an Ivy League MBA, successful in the financial world, and he had lived in three countries before the age of thirty. Raised in a family with only the loosest connections to a mainline church, he had little understanding of Christianity.

I was therefore gratified to learn of his intense spiritual interest, recently piqued as he attended our church. He said he was ready to embrace the gospel. But there was a final obstacle.

“You’ve said that if we do not believe in Christ,” he said, “we are lost and condemned. I’m sorry, I just cannot buy that. I work with some fine people who are Muslim, Jewish, or agnostic. I cannot believe they are going to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus. In fact, I cannot reconcile the very idea of hell with a loving God—even if he is holy, too.”

This young man expressed what may be the main objection contemporary secular people make to the Christian message. (A close second, in my experience, is the problem of suffering and evil.) Many today reject the idea of final judgment and hell.

Thus, it’s tempting to avoid such topics in our preaching. But neglecting the unpleasant doctrines of the historic faith will bring about counterintuitive consequences. There is an ecological balance to scriptural truth that must not be disturbed.

If an area is rid of its predatory or undesirable animals, the balance of that environment may be so upset that the desirable plants and animals are lost—through overbreeding with a limited food supply. The nasty predator that was eliminated actually kept in balance the number of other animals and plants necessary to that particular ecosystem. In the same way, if we play down “bad” or harsh doctrines within the historic Christian faith, we will find, to our shock, that we have gutted all our pleasant and comfortable beliefs, too.

The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God’s grace and love and our human dignity and value to him. To preach the good news, we must preach the bad.

But in this age of tolerance, how?

Read the full article here.

Breaking the lightbulbs – silencing theology

There are a number of interesting articles in this month’s Next-Wave Ezine (here) but one stood out as interesting to me, namely, the article ‘Breaking the lightbults – silencing theology’ by George Elerick about putting theology back into its right place, and rediscovering the mystery of God:

We need to unname God. We need to unname Christianity. We need to unname theology, truth, the bible, life and all the things in between. We need to remove the idea that theology and understanding are going to save us, when we do that, then God can save us. When we do that we divorce ourselves from the need to feel in control of synaptic processes of trying to understanding God. We can then let God teach us. Romance us. Woo us. We can then meet God on His/Her Terms. We can then let go of the gods we have created in theology.

I must admit that I don’t completely agree with Elerick’s conclusions but I think I get where he is coming from:

What we need is silence. The Latin word for silence is silentium. Silentium has many meanings, a few include obscurity, stillness and quiet. We need to rescue obscurity from the hands of theology. We need to rescue ambiguity from the Church. This doesn’t mean that we stop talking, what it does mean is that we stop taking ourselves so seriously. What it does mean is that we come to accept the idea that our words fail at fully understanding God and what the being stands for and who’s side He’s/She’s on. Maybe we can rest in the security that not knowing is a better theology than knowing. The more we know, the more we think we have arrived, the more we have arrived the less we need God. We need to embrace a sort of irreverant absurdity when we approach our human understandings of God. If we don’t, we risk the possibility of taking ourselves too seriously and then follow after a god that doesn’t really exist.

Embrace an irreverant absurdity?

Any thoughts?

Read the full article here.