Monday, January 3

A commentary on the epistle of James

A commentary on the epistle of James

Now that my thesis is complete, I have the time and motivation to write more non-fiction for this website. I love the book of James, and being able to write about it at such length has given me even greater appreciation for the letter. It has been subject to a great deal of criticism, especially from the stalwarts of the Protestant movement, and this article can be seen as my attempt to defend the value and insight it has for any follower of Jesus. I hope you all enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 6

Some short stories

This blog is not dead. Today I have attached a series of short stories written by me, and a short story from a friend of mine named James Jenkins. I call them both 'short stories', but they could not be more dissimilar. Mine are all less than three pages each, while James' story is a long read that he has been thoughtfully tweaking for months. I have read it myself, and enjoyed it so much I had to put it up here. All of this (and more in the future) will be uploaded to the website once I remember my login details for the FTP. Please enjoy, and let me know what you think on here or by email.

What I was, what I am, what I will be
story 1: Hesitation
story 2: A week that won't be remembered
story 3: Entropy in reverse

The Man by James Jenkins

Thursday, May 6

Status of the blog

It's been a long time, I know I know. This year I am in my honours year of university, and the course/thesis work has been at absurdly high levels. It isn't that I don't care enough; I have had a number of great and meaningful discussions with people who have emailed me after reading through the website.

I have a few short stories lying around, so if you were at all interested in my last post then future content is coming. I am also planning a longer piece of fiction around July. As for long essays on religious/social topics, I have yet to have the inspiration or time to write anything. I hate writing things out of obligation to the website that I am not passionate about, and believe me whenever I try the content is poor. After my fling with fiction is over, I predict I will start writing about economics and politics (which my formal qualifications are in), and how my conception of Christianity and the message of Jesus interacts with the main social issues of the day.

To those who are visiting my blog for the first time, please see my website for alot of articles/essays that may interest you. To those who have been here a number of times over the years, I appreciate the support, and please bear with me as I will be releasing certain things in the future.

Wednesday, July 15

Some short stories about heaven, Jesus, and violence.

I decided to give another crack at fiction:

The Journal of Seth Lovejoy
(Click here to read): A Christian dies, goes to heaven, and keeps a journal of the experience.

Q&A with Jesus about the problem of evil (Click here to read): Jesus debates a talk show host.

Coming of Age (Click here to read): A meditation on a specific form of violence.

Lately I have experienced some problems with the company that hosts my website. If it is ever down, here is a backup of the major articles on the website:
The Quiet Revolution: Part 1
The Quiet Revolution: Parts 2 & 3
Christianity is an Existential Communication
Christian Pacifism

Thursday, July 2

New posts

I am working on three blog posts concurrently. The first is about apathy towards poverty. More specifically, why does the level of care diminish when the poverty is further away. The second is a case study of three large institutionalist churches (the catholic church, the mormon church, and the protestant church), and how they are structured in ways that provokes dysfunctional behaviour. The third is the requirement for Christians to deny retributive justice, possibly integrated into a "five ways to be more Christ-like" type of devotional reading.

At least one should be finished this month. Feel free to comment with your own thoughts on these issues, or tell me which of these you'd most likely want to read.

Thursday, April 2

The Quiet Revolution: Parts 2 & 3

Click here to read: The Quiet Revolution: Parts 2 & 3

It's finally finished. The original intention was for parts 2 and 3 to be separate articles, but I felt that integrating them worked well. I have also done some cleaning up of the website, which should prevent new visitors from finding it cumbersome and unintuitive. The last thing I would like to do is quote a verse from James. I came across this little gem only a year ago. It's amazing the kind of verses you can miss out on even after a lifetime of sitting under sermons:

James 1:27 -- "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

I will most definentely be revisiting this verse in some future article.

Monday, March 2


It's been a long time since I wrote that article on Christian pacifism. I have been very busy, but half of the reason is I just can't get going on finishing another article. I have a couple half finished, but i'm very unsatisfied with the writing and the way I am communicating the ideas. The future does not bode well for them if history repeats itself; the documents folder in my computer is littered with half-finished blog posts dating as far back as when this blog first started (3-4 years ago).

Do I cast them aside and begin on something entirely new? The problem is I just can't get a few issues out of my head. Indifference towards the third world, American Politics, and non-violent resistance. The recent attack on the Gaza strip really affected me. Obviously it isn't the first conflict in recent years to depress me, but I guess it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Reading a collection of Noam Chomsky's political thought, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, only amplifies the feelings of alienation.

I have not always had a passion for social justice. I remember early 2003, when I was 15 and appropiately naive, I watched the fighting in Iraq and was quite ambivalent and indifferent towards the whole thing. It was only a year later that I was arguing at school with a new student who recently came over from the US south; he loved Bush, guns, the confederate flag, and everything else that teenage boys from those parts of America are supposed to love. Looking back, I was still completely oblivious.

It took a number of years to change my perspective on life to be where I am right now. I would have to say it began with a close friend of mine in high school coming out of the closet, and revealing his homosexuality to the very conservative school and group of churches we both belonged to. The way that he was treated by fellow students, the faculty, the church pastors, and everyone else I knew at the time shocked me. It was really disgusting to me. By that time a number of intellectual disputes I had with the independent Baptist tradition (e.g. infallibility of the Bible, atonement theology, the Pauline priority, ignorance concerning the life of Jesus) were taking shape, and for me it was all over. Many things I had taken for granted all of my life had become meaningless to me, but I still held an ardent desire to know what Jesus really said, and what God really wants out of me.

For awhile it felt like limbo. I knew what I didn't believe in, but not what I did believe in. This continued for quite awhile as I gradually felt for an anchor to ground myself with, and then I started going to university. I came to the philosophy of Christian existentialism on my knees. It asked questions I was very familiar with, such as "What is the meaning of life?", "how do we make sense of the suffering in this world?", "how do we make sense of these feelings of angst, anxiety, and guilt?", "how do we have a proper relationship with God?", but the answers were so refreshing and relieving. At that point I was quite familiar with the basics of traditional philosophy, and the way that existentialism cut through the very presuppositions that founded my traditional philosophy was shocking and exciting. It was the author Soren Kierkegaard that really helped me re-find my Christianity; a Christianity that is true for me, a Christianity I could live or die for. I devoured Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto death, Philosophical Fragments, and some others. However, it was not until I read through his journals that I came across it.

"Christianity is no doctrine, but an existential communication"

That was the sentence that inspired this blog. After that I read quite a few people who helped me understand Jesus more. Specific mentions deserve to be given to Paul Tillich, John Howard Yoder, Chris Forbes (lecturer in the two early Christianity units I did at university last year), and others. Nothing helped me more, though, than an earnest reading of the Gospels, over and over. I decided to call this blog Existential Christianity to further develop this idea from Kierkegaard's journals. Interestingly, Christian Existentialism has often been taken to be highly individualistic and inward. In fact, John Howard Yoder often criticised Kierkegaard and the Christian Existentialists for being obsessed with defining Christianity as an inward and individualistic phenomenon. I think this site is often the complete opposite. Why I still call it "Existential Christianity" is a topic for another post I guess.

The development of my political beliefs started shortly after Kierkegaard. There has been a very strong direct correlation over the years between my understanding of and love for the teachings of Jesus and radical political/social beliefs. I believe this is quite natural; as it is Jesus who taught that serving the poor was one of the most important thing his followers can do. He taught people to love unconditionally (even your enemies), to resist non-violently, and to forgive radically. My inclinations towards radical political theories increased when I learnt about the very early tenement Churches in Rome, how the early church in general treated each other economically, and also modern political/military history. The number of political authors who influenced me would be too large to list.

I started writing this post with the intention of it being a one paragraph excuse for why I have not completed a new blog post, and it has (hopefully) turned into the very solution for my writers block.

Sunday, March 1

Book Review: Hero for Christ

I have written a review of Chris Sunami's recent book Hero for Christ. You can read it by clicking here. Chris is the author of the website Christian Existential Humanism, a site i've enjoyed and linked to for a very long time. The website, and the book, are worth checking out.

More information about the book can be found at the homepage, and the author's email address is here

Tuesday, February 24

A New Link

I just added a new link. The site is called "Fundamentalists Repent!" The articles are well-argued, illuminating, and well worth the read. Frustratingly, I can't find the name of the author or a way to contact him. In other news, I have just started a new university semester, and am currently working on a new blog post and book review. The former will be up in less than a week!

Sunday, December 28

The spiral of violence

Terrible news has come from the Middle East, as Israel is shelling the Gaza strip into submission. At the time of writing at least 275 dead and 600 wounded, it isn't clear yet how many of those are civilians/government/military. CNN has reported that one of the known targets of the assault was a Gaza police station. Israel claims that this recent act of violence was a reaction to over one hundred rockets being fired from the Gaza strip into Israel, and hence this action is seen as self-defence.

It will sound reasonable to many until it's learnt (at least from what I read) that the rockets have led to only one casualty in Israel. The rockets themselves were a reaction to previous aggressive acts from the Israeli army, and also the complete embargo that Israel has placed onto this part of Palestine. Not even food, aid, or medicine has been allowed to enter the Gaza strip, adding to the plight of many impoverished people there. Some exemptions to this embargo were only made earlier this week. Those aggressive acts by the Israeli military and the embargo were a reaction to the kidnapping of some Israeli soldiers and more rockets that rarely ever hit anything. I could go on like this forever.

When will both sides learn that violence begets violence? Does Israel actually expect a long bombing raid to decrease the level of violence and anger in the Gaza strip? Whether Israel has a sacred right to the land or they immorally forced their way into the land with the blood of Palestinian civilians; it is clear that such merciless killing by both the Israeli army and the suicide bombers will only provoke further aggression. An endless spiral of violence now defines the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the poorest victims are the Palestinian/Israeli civilians who just want to get along with each other in peace.

Thursday, December 18

Christian Pacifism

Instead of the Quiet Revolution part 2 (which I still intend on writing!), I have written on a topic that has been on my mind lately.

Christian Pacifism

Sunday, November 23

Some Interesting Quotes from the Didache

Exams commence next week, and following that the writing on this blog should pick up. While studying for the Ancient History subject I read through a document called the Didache. It has been dated from as early as the middle of the first century, and as late as early second century. It's origin is undoubedtly from a community of Jewish Christians who exist in a rural village context. This is interesting for two reasons; most of the New Testament epistles are for Gentile urban churches, and the ministry of Jesus took place in the rural villages around Galilee. The author is entirely unknown, and it may have been written by a collaboration of the community's minds, and written down by a scribe. It has content that will be relevant for future posts in this blog, and the whole document can be read for free here. It some very peculiar verses that are worth mentioning:

4:8 Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in need, but shalt share with thy brother in all things, and shalt not say that things are thine own; for if ye are partners in what is immortal, how much more in what is mortal?

A stunning verse. Chapters 1-5 of the Didache are what scholars call "two ways material". It talks about the way of life, and it talks about the way of death. What is surprising is that the way of life is focused on material found in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. We have no way of knowing what Paul thought of the Sermon on the Mount, nor the Christian churches that received his epistles. However, from this document it is now clear that at least one Jewish Christian community took it to be central to Christianity. Verse 4:8 not only indicates that they take seriously the radical commands of Jesus with giving/sharing, but seems to take it one step further and abolish the idea of private property among Christians. It closes with what I consider a beautiful sentiment; if ye are partners in what is immortal, how much more in what is mortal.

6:2 If thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou art able, that do.
6:3 But concerning meat, bear that which thou art able to do. But keep with care from things sacrificed to idols, for it is the worship of the infernal deities

Being a Jewish Christian community, it is understandable that they still take the law and food laws seriously. The important point to note is how they stress "do what you are able to" after stating the principle. I'm not sure if the yoke of the Lord is Jewish law or the Sermon on the Mount material they quote in Chapters 1-5, but it appears that they are trying to factor in the common failures of humanity. It has a completely different feel from the words of Jesus when he said "Be thou perfect, as your father is also perfect."

8:1 But as for your fasts, let them not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week, but do ye fast on the fourth and sixth days.

This one is quite funny. Unlike Jesus, they consider the problem of the hypocrite's fasting to not be their public boasting and motivation for doing so, but rather the days of the week that they do it. Be careful on what day you fast!

8:2 Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord hath commanded in his gospel so pray ye: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil: for thine is the power, and the glory, for ever.
8:3 Thrice a day pray ye in this fashion.

The Didache has many references to the Gospel of Matthew (or the same source that Matthew used for his Gospel), and hence it is no surprise that they quote the Lord's prayer in this fashion. What is interesting is the command added in 8:3 to pray the Lord's prayer three times a day. I don't think I have ever heard anything similar in any other early Christian document.

I encourage everybody to read the Didache, it is a wonderful and short work that has information on the way of life, the procedure of baptism, how their village handelled travelling Christian prophets, and how their society functioned as a rural Christian village. Well worth the time.

Friday, October 3

Early Trends

At the moment I am writing an essay for an elective at university which tracks the development of early Christianity in Rome from 50-150AD using Paul's letter to the Romans and an ancient document known as the Shepherd of Hermas. While researching for the essay it really struck me how a Christian community, which was unique in its egalitarian worship structure, could rapidly develop into the most authoritarian and hierarchical church in the ancient world. Eventually, the city hosted the strict line of holy authority found in Roman Catholicism. How did this change take place?

Not many hints can be found in the letter to the Romans. Paul’s attempts to unify the church on matters of ethnicity and the law did not require the entire community to adopt a single point of view, but merely to tolerate and mutually respect one another. Hermas’ attempts to unify the church, however, was another matter entirely. I sympathise greatly with his plight, as he considered an affinity to business and a lust for material prosperity as the main factors that were contaminating and destroying the church, but the manner in which he attempted to solve the problem set a dangerous precedent. Throughout his letter the issues of post baptismal sin and wealth was argued in a way that excluded all who disagreed, not only from the churches but from God. I understand that existential integrity was very important to the church, and may have been necessary for its survival, but in time this same line of reasoning was extended into matters of doctrine and intellectual belief. His answer to the churches problems was to give the church an authority that was beyond question, beyond reproach.

Dangerous trends such as this one can be seen throughout the epistles of the New Testament and later Christian documents. Another example is submission to the secular state. It was a common accusation of Christianity in those days that it was politically subversive and hostile to the authority of Caesar. Amazingly, two major stalwarts of early Christianity, Peter and Paul, were vociferous in their attempts to nullify the accusation. Paul’s command to submit to Governments in Romans 13 is situational and conditional, leading way to the churches later rejection of Caesar and his demands. Nevertheless, the foundation had been laid for a future peace to develop between Christians and the state, where social justice and political activism was sidelined. Even more disturbing is 1 Peter’s characterisation of Governors as the rewarders of righteous and punishers of evildoers. I do not mean to impose my own dispositions onto a letter written nearly two thousand years ago, but I think everyone can agree that there appears to be a major shift between Jesus rebellion against the religious institutions of the day and the early Christian’s call for submission to all authority.

Another example is the very structure of the house church, which seem to be the majority model that the early church adopted (the notable exception is Rome). The coming together of masters, slaves, the destitute, and prosperous businessmen was always going to lead to awkward social situations. I appreciate that Paul tried his best to encourage equality in the house churches over matters of spiritual gifts, the common meal, and almsgiving. However, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that there is an innate compromise in the model that led to an ignorance of certain sayings of Jesus and class antagonism. Robert Jewett, who is a wonderful scholar, called the house church “love-patriarchalism.”

On the other hand, you find figures in early Christianity that appears to be on the exact same wavelength with the message of Jesus. It was James who remarked that pure religion was taking care of orphans and widows in their distress (read: the people in society who could not look after themselves), and keeping yourself unstained by the world. In his epistle he also expounded on the teachings of Jesus that related to wealth, and took the existential essence of Christianity very seriously.

Too often in scholarship of Early Christianity the question of “Why did these things happen?” is prioritised and the question “Should these things have happened?” is ignored entirely. It is these themes that I will run with in the second part to the Quiet Revolution. Unlike in this post, I will actually argue for my position rather than just state it. Unfortunately, with university and part time work it should not be expected soon.

Thursday, August 7

The Quiet Revolution: Part 1

The Quiet Revolution: Part 1

Whether it is good or not is up to you, but by far it is the longest article I have written for the blog. I hope everyone can get at least something out of it. Feedback very welcome!

Tuesday, July 22

Kierkegaard on "Christian nations"

I have started work on three pdf articles concurrently; they should be completed by the end of next week. In the mean time, a thought from Kierkegaard in Judge for Yourself! For Self-Examination:

Imitation, the imitation of Christ, is really the point from which the human race shrinks. The main difficulty lies here; here is where it is really decided whether or not one is willing to accept Christianity. If there is emphasis on this point, the stronger the emphasis the fewer the Christians. If there is a scaling down at this point (so that Christianity becomes, intellectually, a doctrine) more people enter into Christianity. If it is abolished completely (so that Christianity becomes, existentially, as easy as mythology and poetry and imitation an exaggeration, a ludicrous exaggeration), then Christianity spreads to such a degree that Christendom and the world are almost indistinguishable, or all become Christians; Christianity has completely conquered- that is, it is abolished!

It is easy to balk at the exclusivity and self-importance that seems to be implied in this passage. However, I do not believe that Kierkegaard is talking about a necessary and objective truth, i.e. that Christianity will necessarily be diluted as it expands. Rather, if you consider it from an empirical historical perspective, it is profound in that it is entirely true.