Reflections of a Broken Man

The Shadowlands Revisited by StephenMac
August 30, 2008, 9:53 pm
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**currently listening to: Dusk And Summer – Dashboard Confessional**

Previously on Reflections of a Broken Man: I reflected on whether it was still fair to hold a “Shadowlands” theology that insisted that our current reality is merely a shadow of their true reality that will be found in the new creation at the end. This is a problem because it denies the reality of the now, and therefore could lead to a denial of the goodness and wholeness of this creation.

This week in Chapel, we looked at Colossians 2:16-17.

16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Paul reminds his readers in Colosse to remain in the faith because of the reality of Christ in them, then warns his readers to be aware of criticism by their Jewish contemporaries who might demand that they observe the Jewish dietary laws and calendar. These things were but a shadow, and the reality is found in Christ.

lubomir_bukov_shadows-of-past-bw-frameThis is what struck me, because the language seems very similar to the Platonic Shadowlands theology. We were reminded in the sermon that what is at stake is the distinction between shadow and substance, and that we are to be wary of moving back to the historical shadow, as opposed to remaining in the reality of Christ. Furthermore, the substance is not mutually exclusive from the shadow – you do not achieve the substance simply be being ‘not shadow’. In other words, there is a twofold process of making sure that our Christian life is not built on the shadows – the things that merely point to Jesus (think modern day church ritual as well as OT law) – and that the substance is genuinely there – our theology and practice is tied directly to our personal our relationship with Christ as revealed in his Word.

Yet, how does this then relate to the avoidance of Platonic paradigms? How can we insist that the things that point to Christ, especially OT practices and laws, are mere shadows, if we have already dismissed the idea that this is our current reality – and that our current reality is the reality?

In essence, I think there is a need to distinguish between the types of shadows. Or perhaps shadow is a poor or confusing metaphor… Let me explain:

Hypothesis 1: In the first category of ‘Platonic’ shadows, we are talking about everything on earth being a shadow of a reality in heaven. For example, the sinful broken man is merely a shadow of a true man in heaven (extreme example, I’m sure that there are a multitude of variations on this theme. Specifically, I am thinking about C.S. Lewis’ eschatology which is arguably ‘Platonist’). The second category of ‘Platonic’ shadows are only a certain number of things are shadows in light of a heavenly reality. As such certain things, or maybe certain practices, are a mere shadow.

**Stephen is annoyed at Chris Carrabba’s whining voice in DBC… switching to Stephen Christian and Anberlin… NEW ALBUM – 30/9**

Continuing on… finished being distracted by wikipedia… I think the second category talks about things that are perishable, or perhaps are specific results of sin. So, for example, man in and of itself is not the shadow, but perhaps his physical limitations or his inability to have the world completely subdued as it was in the Garden of Eden (guessing here) are the shadows, but man is still the same (or something).

Hypothesis 2: Closely related to the last idea is that the metaphor is misleading or simply easily confused. May I paraphrase 2:17… “These are but signposts pointing the way; but the destination, however,  is found in Christ.” This is the thrust of the passage I think – don’t be fooled into thinking the signpost is the destination. Don’t be fooled into returning to the things that merely pointed to Christ, and miss out on Christ himself. I’m guessing here, but I think this would tie in more closely with 2:6-8…

Colossians 2:6-8  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

In this way, shadow does not imply a different reality, but merely the insubstantial connection to that which creates the shadow. Better yet, the OT laws become a signpost pointing to Christ, a ‘sandbox model’ as my Biblical Studies teacher put it in High School, of the way that God would work out his salvation in the world. This doesn’t deny the reality of those events or practices, but places their emphasis in their goal – Jesus Christ.


In Contemplation of a Guy From Seattle… by StephenMac
August 30, 2008, 8:39 pm
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**currently listening to: Define the Great Line – Underoath**

I am tempted to say that Sydney is in the middle of Driscoll-mania, but I am not too sure markof the fairness of that, especially to him: having heard him speak both at College and BYPJ, he is a remarkably honest, genuine, and humble guy. And while the cynic inside of me may say that 10,000 people only went to see him because of his reputation, what does it matter? God’s word was preached powerfully and faithfully, people were cut to the heart, and the name Jesus is on people’s lips. And that is cause for prayers of thankfulness to our Lord.

In thinking about these two talks, and having read quite a few others thoughts, I am convinced that many people have been challenged by Driscoll’s call to Sydney men to man-up. Now I think that some of this is rhetoric designed to push buttons, to challenge men to step up and to take responsibility as they have been called to. Many guys, especially those of us who are single, have been challenged (read: offended) by the call to find our pants, get married, move out of mum’s basement and start a church plant. And despite many disagreeing with his statement, I think he has made his point – and we, mainly we as Sydney Anglicans, are now thinking about how we deal with this call. Some of us have simply dismissed it as irrelevant – we have MTS, Christians on average get married younger, etc etc. Others agree wholeheartedly, seeing this as the wake-up call we needed. I am still unsure. But as the only 22 y/o at college, I heard his challenge to man-up loud and clear (everytime he used the phrase “average 22 y/o” I’m thinking, oh man, not another thing I have to do…). I think it’s something that I personally can’t dismiss so easily. My question is though, so what do I do?

Being 22, I have the advantage of being a church-planter by 25 after finishing college, but I had never even in my wildest daydreams ever considered it. I had dismissed the idea of being a minister with the thought that I am too young – pastor-ship is an old-man’s calling. I had seen myself as working in the academic world and serving in that area. Yet as I heard Driscoll describe his vision for young contextualised ministry, I couldn’t help but be filled with an air of joy and excitement, of seeing the urgency that should come with the acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is Lord RIGHT NOW! What this means for my plans, no idea, but I’m sure God is challenging me to think outside the square, and remember it’s his plans that have the final say, not mine…

IMG_0454 - Copy Getting back to the topic at hand, BYPJ (which I believe many are currently blogging, that is, until they get back from engage, and then they’ll blog that I presume) didn’t teach me much new… and I struggled with that, wondering how I could then use this talk for something productive. An opportunity came up on Thurs night, when I was able to use the his plastic jesus’ as a way to have a conversation with a friend of mine about who Jesus really is. What was great for her, was that I was able to use the idea of moral jesus or religious jesus or spiritual jesus to show that Jesus is so much more. Yet, I am praying that now that she knows that Jesus = God (head knowledge) that it will translate into Jesus = God (heart knowledge). Praise God for the work that he does so gradually.

Driscoll talked (can’t remember which talk exactly… possibly college talk) about evangelism being a long term thing. And I see that in his own ministry – he will plant the seeds in an event like BYPJ, but God who calls us to get alongside these seedlings, to pray for them, to answer them, to talk and be there for them.

So often, I have longed for a gf… to be able to have a family etc, and Driscoll’s talk really pushed that button. But there was always a song lyric by DBC that I had longed to be able to sing of myself…

**Stephen changes songs to check the lyrics**

How the grace with which she walked into your life
Will stay with you in your steps, and pace with you a while…

**Stephen, having mellowed out, switches permanently to DBC**

I was thinking… these seedlings can become the family that I have longed for. Will not they be the ones who walk into my life by grace? Will not I stay with them in their steps, encouraging them, growing them, and in turn, being encouraged and grown? Yet, there is a difference – Driscoll remarks how lonely it is, and the need for him to have his wife supporting him – is it possible to do a similar job without a wife and consider the pastoral family as an equal substitute? Perhaps… but I think that could be dangerous and risky, even more so than for a married pastor.

No matter what you may think of the phenomenon that has embraced Sydney while Driscoll has been here, I think that the simple fact that he has put Jesus on the lips of people, and filled Christians with some form of evangelistic zeal has been terrific, and hopefully it will be persistent, especially after Driscoll leaves. The real test will be the next few months, and whether the feeling can be maintained through to Connect09…


Life in a world without religion by StephenMac
August 19, 2008, 9:45 pm
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I was lucky enough this evening to hear the IQ2 Debate on the question”The world would be better off without religion”. For those who like spoilers, here are the results:

    • Before the debate: 55% for, 11% undecided, 34% against
    • After the debate: 54% for, 10% undecided, 36% against

Praise be to God for that 2% swing! I am reminded that numerically, that is a very small number, but to God, that is at least one person who is moving towards Him, that is at least one person whom He died for acknowledging in part His existence. This should fill us with joy!

Obviously, the debate concluded that the motion was passed, yet I think it is fair to take even a small victory in that.

But, and there is always a reservation, there are a number of things that struck me.question-mark Firstly, praise God for Dr. John Lennox, the only Christian speaker, and though I’m biased, the most convincing speaker. He spoke the truth faithfully, did not resort to cheap shots unlike SMH columnist Richard Ackland (who was nothing but offensive and rude in his comments, and rightly chastised by negative speaker Prof. Suzanne Rutland who pulled him up for his offensive comments. It was disappointing to hear the audience response of laughter and cheering as he made his “jokes” at the expense of the disabled and mentally ill – which he equated with those who were religious), but humbly reminded the audience that there must be a difference between what is written (and what God expects of His people) and the horrific events that are perpetrated in the name of Christ. As a Northern Irishman, he probably knows that better than most.

Secondly, it was disappointing for the debate to remain purely academic. There was only minor, and often weak, references to religion being personal. Even John Dickson, who asked a question during question time, merely reminded the audience of the debate rules – that to make the win the debate, the affirmative side had to prove that religion has done more harm than good. This, while true, still makes the debate academic, and not personal. Prof. Rutland made the saddening comment that she didn’t care which religion you belong to – that is a product of your social upbringing – but faith and belief in a higher something is what is needed. This was the sum total of the personal aspect of religion. There was a comment from the house by a gentleman, a very strong Christian by the sound of it, who made the unfortunate mistake of making his comments at the top of his voice, practically shouting at the audience that he and everyone else in the room, was going to die and be judged, and that he was glad he had a Saviour to save him. True, but not very sensitive… (but should the message be watered down? No, but I don’t think his approach was very helpful). Perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgemental, but I was genuinely shocked and embarrassed by his rant… This I need to figure out better how to deal with.

Thirdly, it was disappointing that the negative were split in their position. There was a “spiritual agnostic” (Professor Ian Plimer, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide), an “academic Jew” (Prof. Suzanne Rutland, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Cultures, who advocated a “religion as a blankie” approach) and a Christian (Dr. John Lennox). Such a divided team against a united atheistic team meant that the argument had to remain on “religion” in general, even though the atheists were taking swipes at the “Judeo-Christian” God.

I found the overall debate quite disappointing, filled with nothing but high level theoretical or scientific “proofs”, or sweeping generic statements, or simple insults or rhetoric (both of which are empty). Is this were religion stands today? Is this all that people think of it? I read the “Your Say” section of the SMH on the issue: so much of the atheism in the world is caused by those who do evil in the name of Christ. And people therefore conclude – how can a loving God exist in a universe filled with such evil? How can God exist when I do not experience his presence? The condemnation of us as Christians is worth noting. On Sunday, I preached on the topic relationships, and how Philippians 2:14-16 pleads with us, that our relationships may stand out, shining like stars in the universe, as we hold out the word of life. Imagine (a theme continually raised in the debate) if the world experienced Christians who had attitudes like that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

How many atheists would still hold to the claim that they do not experience God’s presence, in light of the body of Christ living as it should, shining like stars, holding out the word of life to them?

Praise God for that 2%, who heard the word of life God spoke through Dr. Lennox and others, for the conversations that will take place as a result, and for the marvelous work of Christ that made it all possible.

In dealing with criticism… by StephenMac
August 14, 2008, 11:53 pm
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I had the opportunity at the end of last year to publish a paper on Just War Theory and Legalism ( To my surprise, someone actually read it, and then commented on it.question-mark Elsewhere I have dealt with the criticism (quite simply I think they are wrong…) but it just struck me how vehement my response was. The issue is not academic, rather I took the criticism personally.

This I find to be a struggle, because if I wish to pursue a life in the academic realm, then I need to deal with criticism. But where does academic criticism end, and personal attacks begin? The line becomes blurred when the subject happens to be the outworkings of my faith. See, I desire to look at politics through the lens of Christian ethical foundations. As such, criticism of my politics becomes a criticism of those Christian foundations, and therefore a criticism of my faith. This therefore turns an academic criticism into a personal one.

Even as I write this, I so desire to defend my article, ripping to shreds these comments that were made. And I am torn, because on one level I see it as defending an academic position. Yet if I sit down and think about it, it’s more a matter of pride. I can’t stand to be wrong. I can’t stand to be seen to be weak. I can’t stand criticism, and it’s no longer me defending a position in an argument, but me defending my pride.

Where does it end? Do I concede the point, despite the fact that I feel that I am in the right, as a slap on my own wrist for being proud and arrogant? Or do I stand up for what I hold to be true, academically and theologically? Perhaps it is worth fighting for, but what am I fighting for – me or God?

The right to life by StephenMac
August 3, 2008, 12:31 pm
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I was slightly disturbed this past week when I overheard one of my friends comment on the impending trial of Radovan Karadzic. The comment was along the lines of “I hope he hangs”, and it got me thinking on whether the death penalty is ever justifiable. Let’s be clear: Karadzic is “accused of being responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.” He is charged with:

  • Persecution of Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Bosnian Croat civilians
  • Targeting of political leaders, intellectuals and professionals
  • Unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians
  • Unlawful shelling of civilians
  • Unlawful appropriation and plunder of property
  • Destruction of homes and businesses
  • Destruction of places of worship
Put simply, he is accused of playing a part in the killing of 8,000 men at Srebrenica, sniping civilians during the siege of Sarajevo, and ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs.

But… despite the gravity of these charges, is the death penalty really needed? Is the death penalty justice?

Look at Karadzic’s mentor, Slobodan Milosevic. After delaying the trial for five years, Milosevic dies of heart failure. Asumming that Milosevic was guilty of the charges against him, the end (his death) was the same as if he had been executed. But could this be considered justice? Somehow, I think that those Bosniaks and other victims of the atrocities would argue no – they would want to see him declared guilty. So I think it is reasonable to assume that the justice is found, not in the death of the guilty, but in the declaration of the guilt. That said, there must be punishment that follows.
But how does this mesh with our guilt before God? See, I can say quite easily that before God, I deserve to die for my actions. Yet I am less comfortable with the statement that Karadzic deserves to die (here and now) for his. I suppose the difference lies in the fact that God’s justice is perfect, while ours is limited. If Karadzic is innocent, then executing him mistakenly is a bit hard to reverse, while a life sentence can be cut short. However, this seems to be a more practical answer rather than addressing the specific problem of the death penalty being right or not.