Archive for the 'theology' Category

Dissertation complete!

For those with an active RSS feed to this blog, hello and glad you’re still there. The dissertation is done and posted so I figured I may as well share it here too. Feel free to read, download and comment below.

As always with these types of things, now that I’ve written the damn thing, I’m probably in a much better position to go back and write the whole thing all over again and make it 10 times better but alas I have neither the time nor the energy for it. Thanks to all who participated in the emails, pub conversations and rants about this.


Dissertation Final

The church of medicine

organised medicine has practically ceased to be the art of healing the curable, and consoling the hopeless and has turned into a grotesque priest hood concerned with salvation and has become a law onto itself. The policies that promise the public some control over the medical endeavour tend to overlook the fact that to achieve their purpose they must control a church, not an industry.

Ivan Illich
Medical nemesis.

Wonderful quote that is forming the question for my dissertation even as I read it.


And a bit from dogmatics

“if we face the fact of the church’s humanity, we cannot release it from the task of pursuing academic theology and we must thus accept in principle the task of a regular dogmatics.”

Dogmatics I.1 p277
Karl Barth

Module 1 Unit 4 – Radical Hermeneutics

And the last one…

Module 1 Unit 3 – Texts and Interpretations

And another

The Dignity of Difference

God is universal, religions are particular. Religion is the translation of God into a particular language and thus into the life of a group, a nation, a community of faith.

Sacks J. The Dignity of Difference : How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. London: Continuum; 2002. p55

Any thoughts on that? It seems that Sacks is suggesting that the universal is the key part and the particular less so. Though he may be saying quite the opposite, I’m working this out as I go…

This, I think, is his key premise.

God, the creator of humanity, having made a covenant with all humanity, then turns to one people and commands it to be different in order to teach humanity the dignity of difference.


Module 1 Essay 2 – New Testament Ethics

Here’s another



Module 1 Essay 1 – Old Testament Ethics

So I figured, like most everything else I produce it should probably be available for those keen enough to read.

Feel free to leave comments or send me an email.

If anyone knows how to fix the slightly odd formatting let me know. I’ve just copy and pasted the embed code from google docs

Theologians of the slums

This blog has somewhat morphed into a way for me to vent and explore the stuff I’m studying. Perhaps it always was it’s just now I find it much more useful!

Found this from Marcella Athaus-Reid in a piece criticising liberation theology for being insufficient.

Unless we have theologians from the slums (not just living there as part of a church project) the liberationist argument of theological representatives contradicts itself.

Althaus-Reid M. Another Possible World. London: SCM Press; 2007. p37

This is a big question as it seems that the voice of a rich, white prod is irrelevant to the conversation. My very existence is complicit in the systems that keep people oppressed.

But it also outlines another problem – what do theologians of the slums look like? Indeed how can they do theology, when it is required that you not only read and write but are highly educated and do work in the context of the academy. It seems, in order to be a theologian of the slums, you must leave the slums and become as middle class as the rest of this.

The whole thing seems a bit irresolvable as it stands.

Any thoughts welcome.

On yet another interesting essay title

So this unit is radical hermeutics. Which I’m slowly beginning to get my head round. And this our essay title:

Choose an example of marginalization and/or exclusion from your contemporary world. How can radical hermeneutics help and/or hinder your interpretation of that example?

Any tips of good things to read on this are appreciated!

The current essay title

How might works of imaginative fiction function either as ‘texts of’ or ‘texts for’ Christian theology? Discuss, making particular reference in your answer to the doctrine of sin and William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies.

This is fascinating stuff. Though, as always there’s far too much to read and never enough time

On the first essay

I’ve just submitted my first essay for the theology course I’m doing. I’ve never written anything like it before so I haven’t much of a clue what to expect.

The question we were given “outline an acceptable notion of sacrifice in the old testament and the contemporary world”

Which the more I think about, the more I realise how much there is to be written about it. Problem was (as I see it), most of the reading we were given was on the Aqedah (the binding of Isaac) in Genesis 22. While it does indeed concern the potential sacrifice of a son, in reality, the sacrifice does not actually happen. Indeed the New Testament doesn’t seem to read it as a story about the nature of sacrifice but more as one of obedience.

There are all kinds of takes on the Aqedah. From Boehm, who thought that Abraham gives us a model of holy and defining disobedience in Gen 22, to Gunn, who sees Abraham as the arch-bastard patriarch whose character is revealed as wholly lacking in his willingness to sacrifice his son.

After all the reading, I came to the conclusion that there’s nothing much “acceptable” about sacrifice and Gen 22.

That being said there might be a whole lot that could be said about the Hebrew people’s understanding of sacrifice when you see it in the light and context of something like Leviticus.

In terms of the contemporary world, we have lots of acceptable sacrifice; as long as it’s

a) voluntary/autonomous and basically self-sacrificing

b) for the appropriate cause – war is still top of the list here I suspect. We can accept those who sacrifice their own lives in the pursuit of peace/justice etc…

One of the (many) problems with the essay I just submitted is that I talked a lot about Gen 22 and how it wasn’t really about an acceptable notion of sacrifice and neglected the more fruitful leviticus and modern stuff. My excuse will be that none of the reading covered that but we’ll see…

For those really interested I’ve included my bibliography below:

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics III.3. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010.

Boehm, Omri. 2007. The binding of Isaac: a religious model of disobedience. London: T&T Clark.

Douglas, Mary. Purity and danger: an analysis of concept of pollution and taboo. London: Psychology Press, 2002.

Fewell, Danna Nolan, and David M Gunn. “Tipping the Balance: Sternberg’s Reader and the Rape of Dinah.” Journal of Biblical Literature 110, No. 2 (1991): 193–211.

Girard, René. Violence and the sacred. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Gunn, David M, and Danna Nolan Fewell. Narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Fear and Trembling. London: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Klawans, Jonathan. Purity, sacrifice, and the temple: symbolism and supersessionism in the study of ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005,

LaCocque, Andre. “About the ‘Aqedah’ in Genesis 22: A Response to Laurence A. Kant.” Lexington Theological Quarterly 40 (2005): 191–201.

Moberly, R W L. The theology of the book of Genesis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Sternberg, Meir. “Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics: From Reading to Counterreading.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111, No. 3 (1992): 463–488.

Taylor, Charles. A secular age. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis – a Commentary. Trans. John H Marks  London: S.C.M. Press, 1972.

Westermann, Claus. 1985. Genesis 12-36: a commentary. Trans. John Scullion London: SPCK, 2007.

Yang, Andrew S. “Abraham and Isaac, Child Abuse and Martin Luther.” Lutheran Quarterly 19 (2005): 153–166.

The second commandment

For my theologising I have to read a chap called Patrick Miller

On the second command, and the tendency for us to make theological graven images, he says this:

theology is a very dangerous game and always teeters on the brink of idolatry, with the tendency, intentional or not, of seeking to get at God for our own well-being and program


Miller, Patrick D. 2009. The Lord Alone. The Ten Commandments. Westminster John Knox Press

Barth on the word of God

I’m attempting to do a volume a year of the dogmatics. So i’ll be 44 when I finish. Though it’s already August and i’m only a quarter way through the first.

Though I did find this where Barth talks about the nature of the word of God:

in the prophets and the apostles the church has a concrete counterpart by which it is reminded of god’s past revelation, set in expectation of future revelation, and thus summoned to proclamation and empowered for it

When I start studying in September it seems I have the pleasure of a lecture from NT Wright on the five act play as a hermeneutical model which I think addresses the same issue of the nature of the word of god.

The God we disbelieve in

This is one of the most useful things I’ve learnt in the past 4 or 5 years. I remember chatting with a really thoughtful doc that I worked with in NZ and it came to me that I didn’t believe in the God that he didn’t believe in either.

I’ve had that confirmed to me lots of times since but in reading through McGrath’s textbook on theology I found this in a section on the trinity

The God in whom the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came to disbelieve had been invented only in the seventeenth century

He is of course quoting Alasdair Macintyre.

Welcome to the working week

My time here is over for a while. Till September at least and then they’re taking me back for another 8 months for more anatomy teaching. Me teaching them I hope…

I’ll also be moonlighting at this

So between now and then I’m gloriously unemployed.

Well not exactly. I’ll be heading back north to work at my old shop in Craigavon.

I’ve missed the work I must say. The anatomy stuff was/is a lot of fun. You learn a lot and teaching is a lot of fun, but now it’s over I find myself getting a little bit restless and needing a bit of a challenge.

Dealing with patients is good for you. In the way that being amongst people is good for you. People are good for you because it’s hard bloody work. Good, hard, bloody work.

In emergency depts. the work is often literally, good, hard, bloody work.

Stanley tells me that medicine is a moral act. I’m inclined to agree with him. Moral acts require virtue (at least that’s my take from reading the first half of this) and medicine has certainly been morally formational for me.

If patients were people that I just happened to come in contact with, i could go around believing that I owed them no real duty as human beings. It would of course be untrue, but I live like that most of the time.

When I’m in a hospital as a certain professional, there exists a certain covenant (as Paul Ramsey would have termed it), a relationship that is more clearly defined and understood by both parties.

When I talk to patients if I want to practice virtue before them, it requires all kind of moral energy. Patients have a tendency to kick your sinful, selfish little ass and remind you of what it means to love people.

On most days I could do with my ass kicked in such a way.

[The photo above is the famous Vesalius one. Worth reading the link about him. There’s lots of that kind of thing on the display in the Long Room in TCD at the minute, including the skeleton of Cornelius McGrath, borrowed from our “office”. Incidentally, an 8 ft wall mount of the Vesalius hung on the wall of our dissection room, one of the many things we might not have room for in the new building on Pearse St.]

The Politics of Jesus – 2

Some quotes from The Politics of Jesus for you. A few of them are by a guy called Berkhof (i think it is the guy I’ve linked to) who I’d never heard of but I like what he said. with regards to the “powers” of the world.

the cross has disarmed them; wherever it is preached, the unmasking and disarming of the powers takes place

More Berkhof

all resistance and every attack against the gods of this age will be unfruitful, unless the church herself is resistance and attack, unless she demonstrates in her life and fellowship how men can live freed from the powers

And now Yoder himself with the best one:

the very existence of the church is its primary task…the church does not attack the powers; this christ has done. The church concentrates on not being seduced by them. By existing the church demonstrates that their rebellion has been vanquished.

So what of a civil rights movement in the 60s led by a man with Christ’s victory at the fore front of his mind. What of a movement against slavery?

Both of these now have support of the church as a good thing even though the church was complici for years in their perpetuation

Is it that only when the church is what it should be – a place that has the lordship of Jesus lived out – that individuals are called to challenge the power.

Perhaps it is this:

A church that lives under the lordship of Jesus would be full of all nations and all races

A church that lives under the lordship of Jesus would have members who refuse to keep slaves.



Learn to live with what you are – 3

I’ve talked about the image of God a lot in these few posts. Though I’m still not sure quite that means. It is definitely something of significance just not clear what.

Yes we bear the image of God.

But we are broken images.

Does this then confuse our talk about being in the image of God?

Which bits of our humanity are fallen and which are in the image of God?

We tend to talk of sin and death when we talk of how the fall has affected humanity so do we view those who are considered to be in poor health to be less in the image of God? Do they reveal less of God’s image to us?

So the question is not just what does it mean to be made in the image of God but also what does it mean to be a broken image?


July 2022