Sola scriptura and Solo scriptura

solo scriptura .jpgIt seems I’m not as much of a theological miscreant as I thought. I’ve been dropping in on discussions on the difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura and, while being initially inclined to interpret the latter as a Star Wars meme, my subsequent understanding is that solo scriptura is pig latin for more modern distortions of the old Reformation slogan, sola scriptura.
In essence, while both sola scriptura and solo scriptura place scripture in a veto position above tradition, the latter refers to approaches that go way beyond what the Protestant Reformers intended, denying any need for any reference to tradition when interpreting scripture. I found the summary of Jeremy Myers of some help, especially his explanation that solo scriptura is “the idea that we can learn all matters about faith and practice using the Bible alone, plus nothing else. If a group or person studies the Bible, and they think they have found some truth, doctrine, or practice in Scripture, then they should believe or practice this idea, whether or not it was ever believed or practiced previously in the history of the church.”
Now, I may come up with novel interpretations and practices from my reading of the Bible at times, but it’s rarely without at least consulting the wider church tradition and seeking to follow it in substance if not in style. And, as should be obvious to any long term reader of mine, I see context as essential for correct interpretation of any text. I am highly suspicious of any interpretation of a bible passage that ignores the wider cultural and literary context, and ancient tradition can give us important clues for that context.
Indeed, if anything I go further and often triangulate between the major Christian traditions – Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant – emphasizing what they hold in common beyond all the petty and not so petty divisions. Tradition is far from valueless even though it’s not without its faults. I suppose that places me as a definite advocate of sola scriptura over solo scriptura for all my eclecticism. Innovate, yes. But ignore the past, no.

Footprints … with a Jedi spin


As you may know, Hallmark Card Christianity brings out my mischievous side.

This Footprints poem vs Star Wars image comes, I think, from this guy. For the uninitiated the original poem goes like this:

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it: “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The LORD replied: “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

It’s encouraging the first time, but sickly sentimental by the hundredth.

For more SciFi inspired Christian art and articles see Skywalker as Saviour and The Star Trek Guide to Christianity.

5 ways to have fun with holographic multi-site pastors

I’ve been thinking of ways to have fun with holographic multi-site pastors. Here’s the first five that come to mind for me:

  1. Approach the dais in a white frock and exclaim, “Help me, Pastor Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
  2. Suggest the men’s ministry leaders combine mixed martial arts ministry with Star Wars chess, “But, let the Wookies win.”
  3. Front up on Sundays with a Ghostbusters proton pack, ecto-goggles and a ghost trap.
  4. Voice over, “Please state the nature of the ministry emergency” when multi-site celebrity guy is “activated” on stage.
  5. Paint a big “H” on his forehead and carry on about curries

This could be the best thing since church street signs.

Can you think of any more?

Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

I thought this post on Harry Potter, from popular Pagan blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters, was worth quoting in full:

Just before the final Harry Potter novel arrived in stores, I made my one and only prediction concerning the novel.

“My own (spoiler-free) prediction? I think there is a very good chance Rowling will reveal the series to be a Christian parable of sorts after the climatic ending of last book.”

While Rowling has been mostly quiet about religion and her books, it is no secret that she attends church regularly and considers herself a practicing Christian. Before the release of the last book she made it plain that there was a Christian message to be found within the series.

“…there clearly is a religious – undertone. And – it’s always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming. So – yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book … my struggle really is to keep believing.”

Now it seems that acknowledgment of the underlying Christian themes within the Harry Potter books is starting to expand from a small minority of Christian fans, and into the mainstream.

“Here’s my mea culpa: After finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realized the entire seven-volume story is at least as essentially Christian as C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. That was a bit of a shock for me, because I’ve spent a couple of years writing about how the books are devoid of anything resembling explicit religion. And I had suggested that the moral themes that some Christian authors found in the books are also found in many other religions.”

Scripps Howard religion columnist Terry Mattingly goes right to the source to point out the completely obvious nod to Christian ideas of resurrection and sacrifice.

“Harry Potter and his best friend Hermione Granger arrived in the magical town of Godric’s Hollow on a snowy Christmas Eve. Carols drifted out of the village church as they searched its graveyard for the resting place of Lily and James Potter, who were murdered by the dark Lord Voldemort. First, they found the headstone honoring the family of Albus Dumbledore, the late headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The inscription said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Then the Potter headstone proclaimed: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Harry was mystified. Was this about defeating the evil Death Eaters? “It doesn’t mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry,” said Hermione, gently. “It means … you know … living beyond death. Living after death.” For millions of religious believers who embrace Harry Potter, this pivotal scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — book seven in J.K. Rowling’s giant puzzle — offers new evidence that the author is, in fact, a Church of Scotland communicant whose faith has helped shape her work. The first inscription is from St. Matthew’s Gospel and the second — stating the book’s theme — is a passage in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians about the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. Is this part of what Dumbledore had called an all-powerful “deep magic” built on sacrificial love?”

Perhaps the confusion for so long is that people focused so hard on the witches and wizards in the book that everyone assumed it was downright Pagan in orientation. Some have even themed Pagan money-making enterprises around that conceit. Or it could be that the confusion was caused by Rowling’s attempts to (perhaps clumsily) insert Christian themes in a way that wouldn’t “give away” the climax of the story.

“Wizards have godfathers, celebrate Christmas, name hospitals after saints and put quotes from the Bible on their grave stones, but they don’t have churches, vicars or Christenings and their weddings and funerals are secular affairs.”

Of course conservative Christian adversity to the books only clouded those waters, making everyone forget that one of the most famous Christian allegorical tales also involved witches, centaurs, magic, transformations, and enchanted items. Perhaps in ten years time, people will look back in wonder at all the fuss people made over the books, and everyone will just “know” that the books were written by a Christian who set out to tell a tale that included Christian themes and ideas. Harry Potter won’t be seen as a recruitment tool for Paganism (by Christians or Pagans) any more than any other imaginative work that includes fantastic elements.

And I think this nicely dove tails with a Rowling quote posted by Christian blogger Andii Bowsher:

JK Rowling was “Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing.” Rowling
said as much herself in an interview with Vancouver Sun in 2000. It
“seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought
there was no God,” she commented, and added that it suited her not
discuss her faith too freely because, otherwise, “I think the
intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s
coming in the books.”

And note, we still haven’t openly spoiled the climax yet (which you’ll have to read for yourselves). With those sort of media comments I wonder if the tipping point is being reached where the anti-Potter boycotts are starting to look decidedly like a home goal against Christianity as well as a misdirected attack against Paganism, even to the most symbolically illiterate. About time some roses were smelt eh?

Related posts (included spoilers):

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and Witchcraft

Mike Stygal Interview: Understanding Paganism

Demonic Paranoia as Undiagnosed Culture Shock

Elsewhere on the web:

Can You Use Harry Potter to Share the Gospel?

by Connie Neal

Mythology, Aussie Style

In his article “Junkies, thieves, idiots and depressives” David Dale explores what makes Australian culture and mythology distinctive, and what make foreign imports unpalatable.

Apparently the film-makers of Australia have taken to heart the theme song of Mad Max 3: “We don’t need another hero; We don’t need to know the way home.” They seem to agree with the Hollywood screenwriter Christopher Vogler that Australia is a “hero-phobic society”. And with the actor-director Steve Vidler that we suck at triumphalist movies because we have the wrong founding myth.

Last week this column celebrated the 20th birthday of Crocodile Dundee by asking why Australia doesn’t make hit movies of that kind any more. We got impassioned responses from 87 readers.

Part of the answer may lie in the theories of Christopher Vogler. He became hugely influential from the mid-80s after he wrote a memo to his bosses at the Disney studio claiming that all successful stories — even the silliest comedies — involve a classic plot structure he calls “The Hero’s Journey”. He says human beings are genetically programmed to respond to certain characters (archetypes) and to this progression of events: a person is summoned on a quest, meets a mentor and new friends along the road, overcomes obstacles, enters the inmost cave and confronts the ultimate evil, goes through a form of death and resurrection, and returns home with “the elixir” — an idea that saves his tribe, or love, or self-knowledge. The most obvious example of this structure is the original Star Wars.

But in the second edition of his book, The Writer’s Journey, Vogler wonders if his outline might be a tool of American imperialism: “My Australian teachers helped me see that such elements might make good stories for the world market but may not reflect the views of all cultures … The Australians distrust appeals to heroic virtue because such concepts have been used to lure generations of young Australian males into fighting Britain’s battles.

“Australians have their heroes, of course, but they tend to be unassuming and self-effacing, and will remain reluctant for much longer than heroes in other cultures. In Australian culture it’s unseemly to seek out leadership or the limelight, and anyone who does is a ‘tall poppy’, quickly cut down. The most admirable hero is one who denies his heroic role as long as possible and who, like Mad Max, avoids accepting responsibility for anyone but himself.”

Like all broad brush stroke generalizations I am sure this can be picked apart – the Australian psyche is becoming a lot more complex in the face of  multicultualism – but as a broad brush stroke look at Australian culture and mythology I believe there is a strong grain of truth here, and consequently, some important things for Christians to take on board if they would contextualize Christianity for post-modern Australians.

Post-modernity, if anything, seems reinforce our mistrust of heroic mythologies (read: metanarratives), particularly those which transparently serve foreign interests. Witness Aussie cynicism to Axis of Evil language, even amongst those Aussies who are strong supporters of John Howard and the War in Iraq. Any suggestion that John Howard should adopt such language is generally greeted by laughter  or worse. And the suggestion that Aussies should make an Australian version of the movie “Airforce One” usually has people rolling in the aisles. “Honest” John says'”G G Get off my plane!” LOL

So consider more closely this statement:

“Sometimes we try to appropriate the American myth for our stories. And a strange thing happens. Mostly Australian audiences will not believe it.”

The article focusses on myths of a cinematic variety but what about metanarratives of the more religious variety? What about the stories we live in as Christians and the stories those in the Emerging Church conversation tell about themselves and the society we live in? How believable are the global conversations to ordinary Australians? Many aren’t believable even to me.