Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Apocalypse Soon?

Tomorrow I begin a class on Luke's Gospel at Laidlaw College Christchurch One of the issues in modern study of Luke's gospel is whether or not it remains as urgent in its sense of the end of the world as Mark and Matthew before it. That is, was the Gospel, along with the sequel Acts, written at a point when Christians were realising that Jesus was not returning tomorrow, and maybe had even turned from thinking about the end of the world to just the end of individuals' lives: death is eschatology, not final, cataclysmic global judgement.

Another issue is Luke's approach to riches. We could say that he was no Romney. Not even a John Key. But was he an Obama? Interestingly, I don't think Luke has a lot in common with Leo XIII, linked to via the Giles Fraser interview with Bishop Justin Welby (see yesterday's post). Leo's encyclical Rerum Novarum is much too keen on private ownership of property for Luke's taste. Some of what Luke has to say is, effectively, expressing a divine preferential disposition towards the poor. Some of what he says is sheer warning: riches cannot save you, indeed they may doom you, wake up, the end of your riches is nigh.

In that Lukan spirit, as a free service in economic advice, ADU draws your attention to these gloomy reports about the world's deepening recession: Greece at the end of the Euro road, and France not far behind. Yes, you read that right, France. But don't worry about the USA. What is at stake there is not whether Romney or Obama prevails in the election. It is whether Paul Krugman's advice will be followed: take the free money, he says, go deeper into debt, build some roads and bridges. All will be well.

Funnily enough, Luke might agree with Krugman. After all, if the end of the world is imminent, why not go deeper into debt!  But I don't advise the Greeks or the French to rely on the end of the world to save them.

Oh, and Luke has a few things to say about fools, so he might have a word for Monsieur le President Hollande who took office and lowered the age for people to receive the pension.


Anonymous said...

Peter, do you ever read 'Spengler' in the Asia Times online? A fascinating gallimauffrey of finance, economics, music and Christian-Jewish commentary from an expert on Franz Rosenzweig - often wrong in his predictions but never dull.
One of his pet themes is the death of nations (or cultures)and he would see Europe's turmoils as something of a slow demographic death throes. Certainly we are seeing the limitations of 'democracy' as a political force. Politics without private virtue (in the classical, Aristotelian sense: prudence, wisdom, justice, courage; as well as the theological triad) is a recipe for disaster.

Peter Carrell said...

I am without knowledge of Spengler. I shall have to look him up. But, in general terms, I too think there is a slow dying going on ...

Anonymous said...

Why Krugman got a Nobel prize for his economic theory is beyond me. I have always expected that had more to do with his outspoken hatred of Bush and the Republicans.

Question. Are you sure that your reading Luke rightly in terms of anti-property Liberation theology?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
I am not trying to characterise a reluctance to endorse the value of owning private property in Luke as a function of an incipient or proto-liberation theology.

Rather, I see in Luke-Acts an ongoing affirmation of discipleship which sits light to private possessions, including private property, not least because the true disciple is on a journey following Jesus (Luke) and preaching the gospel (Acts). In the light of this it is no surprise to find that one of the heroes of the overall narrative is Barnabas who sells his property and brings the proceeds to the apostles for distribution.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
That Spengler is a smart person who knows his Heidegger from his Spinoza.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, my interest has been aroused here - by your stint of lecturing at Laidlaw. Is Laidlaw now an Anglican registered centre of Education for the Diocese? If so, how long has this been the case. Has this teaching post become part of your diocesan post? Just asking.

Michael Reddell said...


Krugman's Nobel was for his much earlier work in trade theory, economic geography etc, which was original, insightful and still referenced today. Nothing to do with the political or economic commentary of the last decade or so.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
You have asked a good question. The response is manifold:
(a) Laidlaw College has a number of Anglican students attending, some of whom are heading towards ordination. As a Diocese we wish to support and encourage them. This teaching opportunity is an opportunity to be present on the campus on a regular basis as an (hopefully) encouraging Director of Education.
(b) Strictly speaking I am taking on this role in my capacity as Director of Theology House. As Director I need to earn some money for Theology House as it is not a strong institution financially speaking. The fee for this lecturing will be paid to Theology House. Last year I lectured for Otago University. Most years I undertake marking or moderation work for Otago, St John's College, Laidlaw College and, very occasionally, the Australian College of Theology: fees being paid into the Theology House accounts.
(c) All such opportunities are under the oversight of Bishop Victoria as Bishop and as Chair of the TH Board.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Peter - a tent-making ministry! Respect, bro.

Bryden Black said...

This might be a naughty diversion Peter ... But may be not! I suspect you are well aware of the thesis that Luke may indeed be the Pauline “yoke-fellow” of Phil 4:3, with his residing in that city of cities. Certainly the “we” passages of Acts are tied in with journeys to and from that place. And if so, it may explain a few things, linking Acts and the Letter to Philippians.

1. P’s very close ties and even strong affection for and among that Christian community.
2. The fulsome use of “rejoice/joy” in both Luke/Acts and Phil.
3. The frequent application of their resources for the Pauline mission, both generally and specifically via Epaphroditus (and so the immediate reason for this Thank-you Letter).
4. Lastly, re Shawn’s comment and property: Paul’s desire to be apostolically unencumbered (so Phil 4:10-20), even to the point of a certain ‘freedom’ from this community of communities, has to be nonetheless balanced by the very likes of Lydia’s household’s productivity, the means with which to support such very missions! Hence P’s back-&-forth in 4:10ff ...! That is, using Luke/Acts now and its frequent comments re “riches” and “power”, as cross-reference, etc., the exact understanding of ‘private property’ and its relationship to Christian Faith and stewardship is pretty subtle. Viz. While Acts 4:36f re Barnabas is followed by Ananias and Sapphira, Peter’s remarks in 5:4 are crucial.
5. The Journey of the Church’s mission writ-large will be just as subtle, with all of us asking again and again, how might my/our resources, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial, intellectual, whatever (I note your reply to Ronnie!)—all such are gifts we have received, to be stewarded “under God’s good Grace”, with the kind of ‘freedom’ Paul is encouraging, let alone via Barnabas’ and/or Peter’s examples.

Bryden Black said...

On another front, re Luke/Acts commentary and your very first para. I’d fancied they’d given up that weird thesis, founded or at least perpetrated by Conzelmann. For the Introduction to vol 2, Acts 1:1-11, alone clearly ends with a direct reference to the Parousia! Also, the set piece sermons frequently mention universal judgement and the End. But then who am I, a mere systematic theolog (of sorts), to mix it with such a NT Scholar as yourself?!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks Peter, for your fulsome explanation of your presence at Laidlaw. Good work on your part!

My second question is this: Are the Anglican students at Laidlaw being funded by the Diocese of Christchurch as part of their official ordination programme?

And, thirdly, if so, why not Saint John's College, where theological education is fully funded for approved Anglican students?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
I think Lukan discussion about the Parousia remains lively, not least because Luke gives evidence both of an imminent end to all things (in keeping with the other gospels) as well as stories (e.g. the Rich Fool) suggestive of a transition towards thinking of a (so to speak) individual parousia via one's own death.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Any lay person in the Diocese of Christchurch is entitled to approach the Diocese for a training grant (max $250 p.a.) or to apply through the Diocese to the St John's College Trust Board for a scholarship for study away from St John's College itself. I believe some Anglican students at Laidlaw avail themselves of these opportunities.

Generally Anglican students at Laidlaw College Christchurcha are there under their own initiative and some, in the course of their studies, approach the Bishop re ordination. If accepted for ordination the question then concerns further training, especially in relation to Anglican studies. Decisions tend to be made on a case by case basis as to what is then required, and whether that includes time at St John's College.

In respect of people approaching the Bishop re ordination who do not have a theological degree and who are not currently engaged in theological study, the question of 'where' they will study can receive an answer that varies from potential ordinand to potential ordinand. In some cases people are tied to Christchurch/Canterbury and sending away to SJC is not an option. Where it is an option we are sometimes availing ourselves of that option. Currently there are three Christchurch students at SJC. We are in the process of supporting applications for 2013 for four further students.

Anonymous said...

Charity and missions require funding. Funding requires wealth. Wealth requires property.

Bryden Black said...

May be this link is relevant too re Luke/Acts and eschatology:


enjoy, fellow bloggers!

Anonymous said...

Both Laidlaw and Carey Baptist have excellent programs. I would like to see a much closer relationship developed between them and ACANZP, especially with regards to the training of ordinands.

St Johns does not offer full degree program, thus students must get the bulk of their degree elsewhere, usually at Auckland or Otago.

At least one current ordinand came to St. Johns after training at Laidlaw, and a number of students supplement their studies with extra programs from Laidlaw and Carey.

Carey has an excellent preaching program for example.

This is all to the good of the Church. The days of rigid denominational exclusivism and intolerance are surely over.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and Luke has a few things to say about fools, so he might have a word for Monsieur le President Hollande who took office and lowered the age for people to receive the pension."

The author Robert Heinlein wrote that if you give people democracy all they will do is vote themselves bread and circuses.