Monday, August 30, 2021

The challenge(s) of reading Scripture in 2021

Reading 1

Sometimes, discussing various issues of the day, one side or the other or another raises the question of slavery, the New Testament and Christian ethics. One argument being that it took a while for Christians to figure that slavery is wrong, fullstop, because it wasn't banned by any of the New Testament writers. Therefore, we cannot rely on the NT for our ethical determinations as Christians. A counter-argument being that, although it wasn't banned, St Paul (especially in Philemon) undermined slavery as an institution in society, so effectively the NT declared it was wrong. Therefore, the NT is a final word on slavery.

Except, a counter-counter argument is that, nevertheless Christians through many centuries waxed and waned on the matter, here banning it and there supporting it, and only finally in the 19th century did Christians, universally, "get the message" that there shouldn't be slavery (ever again). Whatever was going on with Christians reading the NT, on slavery (at least), its message was not universally clear and decisive.

Even a relatively early commentator and theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, writing on Ecclesiastes 2, offers a theological argument against slavery and not a simple appeal to one biblical rule on the matter, in this Twitter thread.

On the whole I am inclined to the view that within Christianity, our ethics on slavery developed, albeit on lines set in motion by the NT. The NT is clear that slaves are to be well treated and the master and slave, mistress and slave are sisters and brothers in Christ. It is difficult to sustain an ethic of being family together when half are free and half are slaves! It is not clear, however, from the NT, that slavery should end immediately as a human practice. Our common conviction in the 20th and 21st centuries that slavery should not be a human practice lacks the unequivocal, explicit support of the New Testament.

That the NT does not offer a clear reading against slavery is illustrated by this very recent 21st century Tweet:

Now, let me hasten to add, nearly 100% of readers here will have 100% of Christian friends, family and colleagues who not only do not think this way but would never even have such a thought cross their minds. This post is NOT about lurking pro-slavery theology in the global church. This post is about how the NT (indeed all of Scripture, an OT text is coming up below) is a complex document to read in respect of ethics in a changing world.

Christians do move beyond the strict, literal words of Scripture to new positions on matters of human ethics. In this case, the pastor cited above is reading Scripture as though it is 121 AD and not 2021 AD with 1900 years of context re slavery to also bring to his reading of Scripture.

Let me also hasten to add, that this post is not another foray into That Topic. It could be, but it isn't. Plenty of previous posts on That Topic. Comment there.

Rather this post is about how we actually read Scripture, in day to day or common usage, as well as how we might read Scripture agreeably together.

Reading 2

That this seemingly straightforward task of reading Scripture agreeably together is not straightforward has been highlighted this week by an (at best) interesting take on a familiar Scriptural text by committed Christian, President Biden.

"During a press conference following the attacks at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in Afghanistan, the US President said the American service members standing guard at the airport who lost their lives in the attack were heroes and part of the "backbone" of America. 

He then quoted from the Old Testament to commend their eagerness to go to Afghanistan:

"Those who have served through the ages have drawn inspiration from the Book of Isaiah, when the Lord says, 'Whom shall I send…who shall go for us?' And the American military has been answering for a long time: 'Here am I, Lord. Send me. Here I am. Send me.'"

The verse, from Isaiah 6:8, come from a vision from the prophet Isaiah where he sees God and is convicted by his own unrighteousness and offers to serve God and preach His message to unrepentant people. 

After quoting scripture, Mr Biden continued: "Each one of these women and men of our armed forces are the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice of volunteering to go into harm's way, to risk everything - not for glory, not for profit, but to defend what we love and the people we love.

"And I ask that you join me now in a moment of silence for all those in uniform and out uniform - military and civilian, who have given the last full measure of devotion""                                     

There is no questioning here in this ADU post about the willingness of US military personnel to serve sacrificially in global hotspots of trouble and strife. (NZ would be a Japanese colony were it not so.) But Isaiah 6:8, as this comment by Samuel Goldman in The Week makes clear, is the wrong verse to choose in order to correlate US military mission with God's mission:

"Biden's point was that the Marines and other personnel overseeing the evacuation knew they were in danger of precisely the kind of attack that occurred but continued their duties anyway. In that respect, it was a fitting effort to honor their courage. 

But the Biblical verse he used was a bad choice to make that point. Jews read Isaiah 6 as describing God's calling to serve as prophet to the chosen people. For many Christians, it is seen as prefiguring the vocation of missionaries to promote the Gospel. In both interpretations, the phrase "Here I am" expresses willingness to participate in the fulfillment of divine purposes.

The conflation of foreign policy with a religious vocation is a recurring tendency in American history. It's also a dangerous one, because it transforms agonizing calculations of risk and benefit into contests between good and evil. Biden is leading American forces out of Afghanistan and appealed to national interests elsewhere in his remarks. Yet the crusading attitude that the Bible quote expressed is part of the reason we have failed to secure those interests for the last two decades. To avoid similar disasters in the future, we need to remember that presidents are not prophets and the U.S. military is not the army of God."

Somehow in President Biden's mind, his reading of Scripture has picked up a laudable response to any call from God to any human or divine task, "Here I am, send me", whisked it out of context - a fairly stable context of readers through thousands of years, reading about a prophet called of God to announce God's message - and applied it to a controversial military mission. 

Both the President and the pastor offer readings of Scripture that (fortunately) very, very few people also share (though clearly the President has an influence which could change the odds in favour of any one else in the future attempting a similar reading). Each highlights that reading Scripture with "one mind of Christ" in 2021 remains a challenging task.

Reading 3

Last week I wrote about the one (Nicene) creed, two (Eastern/Western) versions and that sparked some very illuminating comments - thank you - which dug deep into issues of "reading": what were the Nicene Fathers and the Toledo Father/Pope "reading" as they read their Scripture within their contexts of theological struggle? 

And, what were and continue to be the consequences of sticking to their respective readings to the point where they became emblematic of "tribal" identities in the centuries leading up to the never-healed schism of 1054? 

It is easy to turn on the pastor and the President with their readings of Scripture. But as long as the East and the West of Christianity are divided, none of us can claim to have perfected the art of reading Scripture in order to engender a truly undivided common reading of God's written Word! 


At a very technical level - the level of textual criticism where scholars work with variances or obscurities in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of Scripture and try to work out what the original text likely said - there are challenges "reading" the text in order to make sense of it. For the geekier Greekiers among us, this post on Evangelical Textual Criticism may be of interest, concerning "Calvin's Conjectures."                                                                        

Sunday, August 22, 2021

An old question for Western Christians, will Anglicans answer unitedly?

I acknowledge that Aotearoa New Zealand is currently in Lockdown Level 4 (since last Tuesday midnight, until at least this coming Tuesday midnight). There might be more important/relevant things to say than what I say below. However that might take a day or two more to reveal exactly what they are, apart from, of course, and in uniform with all authorities and sensible people, encouraging compliance with government instructions, booking for vaccinations (my first is this Tuesday), and getting tested if there is reason to do so.

Recently on Facebook an Auckland colleague, Ivica Gregurec, posed a question about Anglican support for removing or retaining the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. I had a brief exchange with him there and then, but this post, although prompted by his, is my responsibility and any comments you make in response should be to my words - engage with Ivica's words where he posted! So:

Back in the day, the original Nicene Creed of the undivided church held that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father (fullstop). A bit later, the Third Council of Toledo in 589 added "and from the Son" (i.e. the filioque) to the Nicene Creed but it never took on in the East. When East and West split in 1054 one of the issues was the filioque and to this day the difference remains (except where, in some places in the West, the filioque has been dropped (including, so I understand, by individual congregations).

The Book of Common Prayer remained thoroughly Western on this matter, as does our A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989, 2020) - in keeping, as far as I know with nearly all, if not all other Anglican provinces of the Anglican Communion. For what it is worth, I think the filioque is theologically justified and have no particular motivation to omit it from the Nicene Creed.

Nevertheless there are a few questions to explore here, not least on the blog of someone otherwise inclined to promote church unity.

1. Who among Anglican individuals, parishes, dioceses or provinces tacitly or formally approves (and practises) omission of the filioque?

2. Is dropping the filioque something Anglicans should do in order to be unified with Eastern Orthodox?

3. If we did so drop the clause, would we fall out of that ecumenical favour we currently have with Rome?

4. (2 and 3 perhaps coule be combined to) Should Anglicans only drop the filioque if the Roman Catholic church does so, as part of a combined Western drive toward reunification with the East? (Ditto ... Lutherans ... Reformed ... etc).

5. (The wording of this questioned is biased towards a concern I have!!): Should Anglican provinces only drop the filioque when all provinces are agreed to do so, that is, drop the filioque only when the Communion as a whole does so?

6. (Making a different point) Why should the Western Christendom "we" drop the filioque? Isn't the filioque true and we should ask the Eastern Orthodox to join us in saying it as their contribution to unity?

7. Whether or not the Westerners added to the original creed and whether or not the Easterners are ecumenically cheesed off with the West, isn't the trump card against the filioque that it is a novelty added to the pristine, primitive Nicene Creed?

Sunday, August 15, 2021

An evangelical on what it means to be Catholic?!

Last Thursday evening the third NZ Anglo-Catholic Hui began, in St Michael's and All Angels church here in central Christchurch. It was my privilege to preach the sermon at the opening mass. I give the text here. The Hui was a lovely event and featured Fr Richard Peers, Christ Church Oxford, as main speaker (via electronic delivery), two Bible studies by the Very Reverend Tony Curtis and a series of much appreciated workshops.

My text:

Anglo-Catholic Hui Opening Mass Sermon

Bible: Genesis 28:10-17; Mark 6:30-44 Theme of Hui: Food for the Journey


“July 29th, 1921. Church Times

THE twelve hundred priests who met last week for the Oxford Convention have now returned to their homes, and probably many of them this week have been reviewing their very remarkable experience and questioning themselves concerning the possible effects of those three crowded days.

 . .. There are differences in the Catholic party, and these were bound to appear. Indeed, it was desirable that they should. It is never any good pretending that there is more unity than really exists. 

Such unreality is always paid for later. Rude awakenings come, and some of them are coming now to the bishops who met at Lambeth last year. They were inclined, as we can all see now, though in the glamour of the moment it escaped attention, to slur over essential and fundamental differences. 

Differences can never be hidden by a formula, as the history of the Thirty-Nine Articles might teach us. 

Therefore, we need not regret that differences showed themselves at the Convention. If they exist it is better to drag them to the light and discuss them. But the exhibition of differences was not accompanied by any bitterness. 

There was a careful avoidance of acrimonious language. Practically all the speakers who joined in the discussions were applauded, though in several cases very few members of the Convention could have agreed with what was said. 

All this is, we think, to the good; both that disagreements should be exhibited, and that controversy should be frank and friendly. 

Sooner or later, we must face certain questions. There must be certain definite things for which we stand — where disagreement excludes from our ranks. 

If we are to use the word Catholic, it must mean something — not what anyone chooses to make it mean.”

What does the word “Catholic” mean? 

Tonight, I will not attempt to give you my definition. 

You might hear that as a case of “what anyone chooses it to mean”! 

Rather I will offer some reflections from our passages in relationship to our conference theme, Food for the journey.


Genesis 28:10-17 

I love this passage because Jacob encounters Yahweh in a vivid dream involving heaven and earth and angels and a ladder in between. He wakes and says memorable words,

“Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!”

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.”


Imagine every worship service ending with the congregation excitedly saying to one another, 

“This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.”

An aspiration for all worship is that the experience of liturgy is a lifting of our hearts to heaven. 

A distinctive Catholic aspiration within this general aspiration is that through word and image, with symbolic action and symbolic dress, with incense, through literally all our senses, we the congregation of God are lifted up to God in heaven via multiple sensory modes of access to the divine life.

Within the dream of Jacob, there is a specific Catholic dimension which relates to Catholic meaning universal or (as in a variation of the creed in my recent hearing, worldwide), we find Jacob is commissioned to be the spreader of offspring through all the world: 

to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.

And not only a spreader of offspring, but also of the blessing of God on the world:

“and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring.”

There is no mention of food in this story, but if there is no “food for the journey” here, there is “food for thought”: 

are we Christians – as spiritual descendants of Jacob - a blessing to the world?

The outworking of Catholic worship is always Catholic mission – the work in the world to which we are sent out at the end of the Mass. 

And that work is simple, to be God’s blessing in the world.

Mark 6:30-44

Food is definitely mentioned in this story of five thousand being fed through a miraculous multiplication of a few buns and a couple of fish at the taking, thanking, breaking, distributing hands of our Lord.

There are a lot of things to say about this story, about the significance of food for Christian worship and fellowship, about the connection between eucharist and miracle, and so forth.

Let’s assume those things and say a few things about being Catholic and about food for the journey.

First, at the heart of the story’s opening is the fact of a “great crowd” 

and what are Jesus and the disciples going to do with them when their willingness to listen to Jesus’ teaching becomes a crisis over hungry tummies.

The disciples want Jesus to send them away to look after themselves.

Jesus has compassion on them, he understands they are sheep without a shepherd when he begins to teach them, and they are now hungry stomachs without a cook or a pantry at hand.

He will feed them. All are welcome at the lunch he is preparing via the unwitting, ungenerous disciples.

If to be Catholic according to Genesis 28 is to have a world vision for God’s blessing and a Catholic Christian’s role in that blessing:- 

then to be Catholic according to Mark 6 is to be able to see the great crowd before us, to discern their need and to share our meagre resources with them, rather than to send them away.

More simply, to be Catholic is to be hospitable.

There is a little more to say, reflecting on our theme of Food for the journey.

The crowd in this story need teaching and broken bread. 

We, God’s crowd of Christians need two kinds of feeding: 

- the nourishment which comes through listening to Jesus, learning from Jesus and feeding on the word of God: as Jesus himself said, humanity does not live by bread alone.

- The nourishment which comes through dining with Jesus and his followers.

A balanced Catholic diet of Food for the journey is feeding from the Word and feeding from the sacrament.

But, to bring back Genesis 28 and the dream of Jacob in which he is told that he and his offspring will be a blessing to the world, 

there is a challenge to us, the spiritual descendants of Jacob, 

to not only focus on “Food for (our) journey” but also the food we will share with others, “Food for (their) journey.”

Called to be a blessing to the world, we must not only seek Food for the journey but also share our Food with others on their journey in life.

We have a gospel task to share the gospel. 

In food terms this has been famously described as one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.


If we are to use the word Catholic, it must mean something — not what anyone chooses to make it mean.”

What does the word “Catholic” mean?

Well these few thoughts are an entrée to how this hui will answer that question for you.

May the Lord feed us on our journey and provoke us to share our food with others.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Thoughts sparked by Ian and Francis [Updated]

[The Update is at the foot of the original post.]

Recently Francis Spufford, novelist and CofE General Synod member, wrote an article making some waves. It is entitled "How I changed my mind about same-sex marriage" and can be read here

Ian Paul, blogger and CofE General Synod member, has written a response entitled "Is change in the Church's teaching on sexuality inevitable?" and can be read here.

(Aside: there are illuminating comments, or, at least, fascinating comments, including this one:

"Paul was doing to the equivalent of a bishops letter to the diocese. Bishops change their minds. So with Paul." LOL. The only non-controversial claim here is that bishops change their minds!)

Both Francis and Ian (first names here will save confusion about "Paul"/"[Saint] Paul") offer extensive arguments in support of their respective theses, and - frankly - I don't have time to engage with the details and subtleties and offer my own "Francis/Ian is right and here is why."

In my estimation a singular question Francis raises is whether the church through history has indeed worked through tensions between "principle" and "rule" in favour of principle over rule. In part Ian's counter is that the principle of marriage is that male and female come together in union so the principle here always supports the rule (no same-sex sex).

I also wonder whether what Francis writes is more of a forecast than a thesis. That is, even if Ian is right in what he says is wrong with Francis' thesis, Francis (perhaps with the insight of a novelist?) is putting his finger on where the winds of collective change are heading, even if we will not know that till later this century. Nevertheless, the tradition of marriage, the embedded narrative and theology of marriage in Scripture, that a man and a woman become a couple, both formally (in the eyes of their community and their families) and biologically, imaging aspects of the divine life (diversity in unity; the union between Christ and the church) would have to make a significant, if not dramatic change to become a theology of any two persons marrying.

The church has changed its mind on many things but often it has taken a long time for the change of mind to involve a strong majority if not a unanimity of church members. And through that time there have been arguments and counter-arguments concerning the change, even as sociologically the change has continued to role along - I am thinking particularly of decision-making in favour of the ordination of women.

But, with a few moments of spare time, I want to have a stab at offering a few thoughts, by picking on one thing Ian says as a specific cue to my thoughts:

"In other words, the implicit but clear case Paul is making is not about the context of such activity, but the creation principle behind it which is the form of humanity as male and female."

I suggest this emphasis on "context" and "creation principle" in relation to matters of human relationships raise more than a few questions as we engage with Scripture and in particular with Paul's writings.

For instance, does "context" play a role in what Paul says? I suggest it does, notably in 1 Corinthians 7 where the so-called Pauline Exception (re divorce and remarriage) introduces a new and different exception to the so-called Matthean Exception, because Paul in the Graeco-Roman context finds a new issue to give a ruling on, and does so, but not one he has a direct ruling from Jesus to draw on.

Conversely, how well does "creation principle" play out in the notable and controversial passage 1 Timothy 2:11-15, where Paul appeals to Adam being created first, ahead of Eve, and to Eve's role in "the fall" of creation, to justify women's silence in church and submission to male leadership? Does Paul, for example, appeal to one aspect of the creation story (Eve being created from Adam, according to Genesis 2) and not to another, namely, humanity, male and female being created in the image of God (Genesis 1)?

With respect to same-sex civil marriages, even if they fail a "creation principle" in which the emphasis falls on marriage as a creation institution for male and female, do they not fit with another "creation principle" in which (also according to Genesis 2), it is not good for a man to be alone? To what extent, in other words, might companionship be a "creation principle" which undergirds affirmation in the church of two men or two women covenanting together to be partners in life for life? Especially if those men or women are not capable of otherwise conforming to the requirement for marriage to be between a man and a woman?

Paul, incidentally, in respect of the two articles which touch on the question of whether Paul was wrong on homosexuality, was an intriguing theologian of sex. For instance, overwhelmed by the conviction that the return of Christ was imminent, he offers nothing by way of support for the notion that sex is primarily for the purpose of procreation, pace our 20th and 21st century debates re contraception. (He's not against the possibility of procreation being primary; likely, as a well trained Jewish scholar and teacher, he would answer that question affirmatively; but he just doesn't give the matter consideration.) Conversely, in 1 Corinthians 7, he is realistic about the power of sexual desire: better to marry than burn; better to refrain from sex in order to pray for a limited time only and only by mutual agreement. Yet these considerations have nothing to do with a classic modern posed dilemma, is sex for procreation or for pleasure.)

In other words, even though there is considerable weight in tradition and Scripture re Christian marriage involving a man and a woman, there is also possibility within even the Pauline writings for some fresh thinking about how the church might respond to same sex couples who covenant life together, including contracting together a civil marriage according to changed civil laws.

There is lots more to say here - more questions and observations - and I don't have time to write them. Francis and Ian both make excellent arguments along the way of their respective articles, and each article deserves careful consideration by all Anglicans interested in this particular conversation.

UPDATE [15 August 2021]

In the comments below a point is made that any changes to our understanding of and application of Scripture should not involve strain on a "plain reading" of Scripture. The specific comment by Bowman Walton sparking this update is this:

"In an interview, J I Packer once replied to some of the usual arguments for SSM by saying that such sophisticated readings of scripture dissolved the ordinary believer's confidence in the plain meaning of the text, and that was far too high a price to pay for a trendy ritual innovation. Kindly note that even if one favors the innovation, some authority problems remain to be solved."

Of course (as a comment in reply by Jonathan notes), there is not always a "plain" understanding of the "plain meaning" of Scripture and so forth re complex discussion on hermeneutics.

We could also note that some readers of Scripture are quite comfortable with "sophisticated readings of scripture" - I am thinking, for instance, of interpretations of Revelation in respect of different understandings of "end times".

Nevertheless I think JI Packer via Bowman makes an excellent observation. For instance, if we wish to persuade the whole church of change X then we are more likely to be persuasive if we can offer an interpretation of Scripture which can be easily recalled and recounted to another Christian than if the explanation is sophisticated to the point where few can readily pass it on to others.

With respect to what Ian and Francis are arguing over I make the following observations:

1. The plain understanding of marriage in Scripture (whether in its narratives or in its ethics or in its imagery (e.g. re Christ and the church) is that marriage is between a man and a woman. To argue that marriage can be between any two persons, without reference to gender, is intrinsically to bring forth a sophisticated argument.

2. On what I see as a "related" matter, marriage and divorce and remarriage after divorce, it is interesting that getting around what Jesus and Paul say involves a not entirely persuasive sophistication. For instance, the Roman approach via "annulment" both reads Jesus and Paul in a "plain" manner (there can be no marriage after divorce) and in a "sophisticated" manner (because Jesus and Paul say absolutely nothing about "annulment" of marriages, nor about difference between "civil marriages"/"church marriages which are not sacramental" and "sacramental marriages." Where Protestants seek to offer Scriptural support why A and B can remarry after divorce but not C and D, because the background circumstances are different; or because A and B have repented of mistakes made in their previous marriages whereas C and D have not, there is a different kind of sophistication going on. Neither Jesus nor Paul offer other exceptions than the Matthean and Pauline Exceptions; and neither talk about "repentance" as overcoming Jesus' fundamental point that marriage is for life.

3. In my view, a simpler and plainer reading of Scripture re marriage, divorce and remarriage, is to work pastorally with a couple seeking marriage after divorce under the mandate "be merciful."

4. Back to same sex lifelong partnerships, especially those lawfully constituted as marriages in an increasing number of countries around the world: what is a plain reading of Scripture which supports the church pastorally supporting rather than condemning same sex couples in our parishes?

5. Noting some approaches I have read to the "Six Texts" over the years, and fascinating as certain word studies are re words used in - notably - Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, sophisticated arguments which attempt to effect a neutralising of the plain meaning of these texts are likely to be unpersuasive. Better (as some writers I have read do) to admit these texts are condemnatory and then ask whether they address our modern situation as governments by divine appointments change laws. 

6. A straightforward possibility is that the church then invokes "be merciful" (per 3 above, per precedent regarding response to remarriage after divorce) and re-examines what "companionship" (Genesis 2) might mean in 21st century society.

7. In making an examination of what "companionship" in 21st century society might mean in relationship to sexual relationships, the church might remember that in some ancient times, in Hebrew/Israelite society, there was divine tolerance of polygamy, even though polygamy cannot be squared off with Genesis 2 or Jesus'/Paul's reading of Genesis 2.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

On Wisdom, the Problem of Suffering and How We Should Live

One of the privileges of life is to meet people who are extraordinary, beyond ordinary, outstanding. One such person is Walter Moberly, a British Old Testament scholar, in the Theology Department at the University of Durham, where I met him and learned from him when I studied there some thirty years ago. 

I love reading his writings - he writes well and clearly and insightfully - and there is always deep knowledge of the Old Testament and scholarship about the Old Testament (and a few other fields). He makes the Old Testament come alive as a living document directly speaking into Christian life.

Currently I am reading Walter's The God of the Old Testament: Encountering the Divine in Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020).

In the first chapter, "The wise God: The depths of creation in Proverbs 8," there is this paragraph:

"Interestingly, Proverbs 8 no more tries to explain how folly can be present in a world made by God through wisdom than the Johannine Prologue tries to explain how darkness can be present in a world made by God through the Word who is life and light. The focus in each text is not on the abstract question "Why are there evil and folly in the world?" but rather is on the practically oriented question "How best should the world be understood for the purpose of living well in it?" The inability of monotheistic faith to "resolve" the question of evil and sin at a certain theoretical level is well known (however much partial accounts, primarily in terms of the implications of freedom, may be offered). But the corresponding strength of the biblical witness is its consistent focus on the inescapable reality of the world as known to all humans, with a clear vision of what enhances and diminishes life when confronted by this demanding reality." [p. 45]

In one paragraph Moberly does the following:

1. Sums up most if not all Christian literature on the problem of suffering:

"The inability of monotheistic faith to "resolve" the question of evil and sin at a certain theoretical level is well known (however much partial accounts, primarily in terms of the implications of freedom, may be offered)."

In other words, all those books (and blogposts) cannot solve the problem; and the most frequent proposal, that the implications of freedom explains suffering, is inadequate.


2. Yet does not leave Christians in a hopeless place with this realistic if unpalatable assessment:

"But the corresponding strength of the biblical witness is its consistent focus on the inescapable reality of the world as known to all humans, with a clear vision of what enhances and diminishes life when confronted by this demanding reality."

We may not be able to solve the problem of suffering at a theoretical level but we can learn together through Scripture how life may nevertheless be enhanced rather than diminished.

3. More generally concerning all of life in this world, Moberly challenges us to read Scripture (Old and New Testaments, Proverbs and John) for an ultimately practical rather than theoretical effect on life:

"The focus in each text is not on the abstract question "Why are there evil and folly in the world?" but rather is on the practically oriented question "How best should the world be understood for the purpose of living well in it?""

Some food for thought (on the Sunday when the Gospel is John's Jesus declaring, "I am the bread of life.").