Reflections of a Broken Man

On Doors and Desires… by patricious
September 22, 2009, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Reflections

It took me a while to figure out a way to login to this thing without using Steve’s email.

I know. I know. I still haven’t posted the follow-up to my previous post. Mostly because those reflections rely on my preparation for a Bible study that I led today, which I wasn’t too happy about.

Anyway, I thought this blog was ’emo’ enough to go here. Yes. I only intend to write here if the contents of my writing truly are “Reflections of a Broken Man”…

“Keep asking, and you will be given to you. Keep searching and you will find. Keep knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7.7-12

My prayer life has been rusty, if at all existent, of late. Not that I’m not willing to pray, or even pray for those around me. But I’ve become hesitant when in comes to prayers regarding my own welfare. Which is strange, thinking about it now: How am I praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ — knowing God acts for the good of his people — when I lack the faith (and probably assurance) that God acts for my well-being also?

It may well be that I have become too aware that my will may not coincide with God’s. But after a conversation with Steve (reporting back on Calvin@500), I was encouraged to find that our prayers are ordained by God as we pray them. But as we hear God’s answer (be it ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘wait’), we find God’s will for our lives. And. particularly as well reflect on His word, we begin to develop a prayer life that conforms to God’s will more and more.

I may have gotten things wrong;  forgive me if that is the case.

But looking at that in light of my desires and aspirations for my life, even including my desire to take part in vocational ministry, I am more encouraged to desire, to ask, seek, knock that those doors will be opened (however that may look for God’s will in my life). And, without waiting for a ‘sign’ as such, I would like to see where my life would be headed for the near future. I must admit that I am still unwise regarding the path on which I should take so I am also willing to listen to the wisdom of those who minister to me.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

I must, at most, remember to pray constantly.

I find that I am easily discouraged… by so many things that are ultimately inexcusable grumbling. Thus I’ve found it necessary to be surrounded by a community of believers (a ‘cloud of witnesses’ as preacher of Hebrews puts it) to cheer me on and even metaphorically give me slap on the back of the head when I come to an unnecessary state of despair.

This is where Steve comes in…

Or rather, I barge into his premises (which I’d imagine is inconvenient at times). I really should be more sensitive in that respect, but I am thankful for his hospitality and fellowship.

Your work was in my prayers, dude.

On Calvin by StephenMac
September 18, 2009, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Reflections

**currently listening to a random playlist while avoiding doing my doctrine essay… perhaps I can just borrow duck5‘s blogposts…**

Wednesday and Thursday, I attended the Calvin@500 conference. For a proper review of the conference, Dr. Mark Thompson, one of the speakers has provided a fantastic overview. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my comment on his blog to work, so I’ll post it here along with my own reflections.

The first thing to notice is that it was unlike any other conference I’ve been to. Here, academics presented topical papers (the topic being the life and work of John Calvin, and his continuing importance and relevance today), and were grilled by the audience during question time (Is this normal for conferences? Dr. Thompson seemed to cop the worst of it, but he wasn’t alone in the grilling…). There was an audio interview providing a bio of Calvin, a variety of papers, and a few interviews and panels. Unfortunately, I probably failed to appreciate much of what was said, simply due to the fact that it was a little above my level, but there were many gems that I managed to pick up while there.

Overall, I think there were a few things that stood out. First was an appreciation, and possibly even excitement, about making a better effort to read his writings. I haven’t yet finished my set readings for last summer, (which, actually, was the topic of the last paper presented on wed night), but many of the talks did fill me with a fresh appreciation for, and the desire to take seriously, Calvin’s works. Second, I think, was Calvin as a model for ministry. Something that has really struck me of late has been my lack of pastoral concern, or rather, to see the importance of pastoral ministry. Calvin was not an academic in the sense of being in an ivory tower. His insight and perception stems from knowing and caring for his congregation as people, not subjects of study. He was intensely pastoral. Third, there was a genuine presence of God in Calvin’s work and writings. By this, I do not mean that Calvin is the word of God etc… But as many speakers acknowledged, Calvin was so intensely focussed on knowing God better and conveying this to his readers/hearers that Calvin’s conversations with God would come through his work. In some sense, God is mediated to us through Calvin’s work. This is something that should affect us as pastor/teachers, in that when we preach the word, the congregation should be confronted with God’s words as the preacher preaches from God’s Word. There is an immediacy and presence which stems from Calvin’s bible-centered work.

There were some specific points that I really appreciated. The two talks on thursday morning from Oliver Crisp and Peter Adam were fantastic. Dr. Crisp spoke on petitionary prayer in Calvin’s thought. I think I really appreciated the clarity and simplicity of Dr. Crisp’s presentation. Calvin’s description of God’s sovereignty is quite strong, leading many to believe that he was overly deterministic. Where then is the place of prayer, particularly petitionary prayer (asking for stuff) in Calvin’s view? Dr. Crisp showed how Calvin believes that prayer plays a very important part in God’s overall providence, allowing us to participate in His work by ordaining not only the end (answered prayer) but also the means (my prayer). The other paper that really stood out was Dr. Adam, who spoke on Calvin and preaching. There were 5 core ideas that Dr. Adam mentioned: Preachers need to (a) Engage with congregation (b) Engage with God (c) Engage with the Bible (d) Engage with Theology and (e) Engage with training. A very challenging, yet at the same time edifying, paper.

Further reflections to come…


On Just War: Part II – Alternatives (c) by StephenMac
September 16, 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Reflections

*currently in a break between lectures… will post detail tonight or tomorrow…**

During the 16th-18th centuries, there was a transition from Christian/moral just war theory to legalistic just war theory. This still exists today. Should just war theory remain legalistic?

It is my belief that Just War Theory is and should remain a moral theory, rather than a legal one. In other words, it deals with right and wrong, rather than legal or illegal actions.

The rise of legalism in just war theory came from the abuse by sovereigns of the tradition, turning it into an excuse for war (“holy war”), rather than a restriction on it. Arguably, legalism is now guilty of that same charge. The codification of just war theory into international law, placing it in the paper world of positive international lawyers, is producing the same problems, allowing sovereigns to justify their wars – no longer in terms of “holy war,” but rather as legal war. Just war theory has become a series of checkboxes of laws that politicians tick to justify their positions. This poses some serious issues, as it overlooks the original focus of just war theory, namely, the limitation of war and a reduction of the individual suffering caused by it.

There are three points that flow from this assertion. First, the individual has always been, and should remain, the primary focus of JWT. From a political theory standpoint, the state is founded upon the individual, and a state’s rights and responsibilities are based on those of the individual. Thus, a violation of those rights at a state level corresponds to a violation of rights at the individual level. As Walzer writes, aggression is the name we give to the crime of war, and it is a crime because of the violation of the rights at an individual level. War forces citizens to give up their freedom and welfare for a cause, be it just or not. Importantly, it forces one’s adversary to do the same to their citizens. JWT is a theory that addresses the problem of human suffering caused by war, and it is for this reason that it aims to limit and restrict it.

Secondly, JWT is an incredibly practical framework. The codification of JWT into international law means that this element is often neglected. One need only look at the criteria of jus ad bellum, let alone jus in bello, to see the practicality of the framework. “Legitimate authority” ensures that war is only fought or declared by those with the appropriate power to do so, “reasonable prospects for success” and “last resort” are essentially cost/benefit analyses, and “proportionality” and “discrimination” all have prudential considerations.

Finally, legalism deals with what Walzer terms the “superstructure.” It fails to deal with the ethical substructure that underpins it, and as such, fails to account for how laws were formulated, and why they are considered legitimate. International law is seen to be the combination of what Grotius calls “natural law” (human reason applied to understanding the will of God: what is “just”) and “human law” (the customs, traditions, and agreements made by society for “the enjoyment of rights and the common interest”: what is legal). Both natural and human law require some ethical substructure to provide a reason for why they are accepted as law. The concept of “sovereignty” is a perfect example, being a fundamental term in international law. While many accept that sovereignty is about responsibility, this acceptance is mainly limited to the Western world, and is disputed by developing nations. The reason this is disputed is because of the implications for individual political freedom. Developing nations believe the concept of sovereignty as responsibility could be used as an excuse for other countries to interfere in their domain, whereas many in the West believe that if a state is incapable of carrying out its duties in providing for the welfare of its citizens, then it no longer retains that right, and others need to make that provision. It is interesting that the catalyst for this development came about from the moral outrage caused by the suffering of people in Rwanda, Somalia, and Kosovo.


On eu AGMs (Part 1): Ministry belongs to God’s people. by patricious
September 15, 2009, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Reflections

Another eu year has gone by in terms of its leadership. And I’m always encouraged around about this time, reflecting on God’s blessing in his ministry on campus and looking forward to who God has raised to steward over it for the following year. On Monday night I attended two Annual General Meetings [AGM] of the eu. The first was with the faculty I take part in, ACES. The one for the eu as a whole followed, with an hour separating the two for the equip ethics course.

Faculty AGMs tend to be more chillaxed. Usually with a presentation recounting the year as a whole and some words of wisdom for the exiting committee (servants who lead the faculty) before we vote* on the entering committee. Orion (former male faculty leader of aces) gave a talk on the purpose of the committee; one that I’ve heard before. Based on the start of Ephesians 4, he made a few points that are worth noting.

  1. First, that ministry belongs to “God’s people” (v.12)
  2. Second, that God apportions gifts (his grace) diversely. In that God calls some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors teachers. And although that list is not exhaustive, particular roles such as these are purposed “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (ibid).
    Thus, also taking into account that time within committee is fleeting, the leadership needs to allow for redundancy (comparative to the work of euers in general and, of course, God).
  3. Thirdly, the goal of ministry is for people to be built up in Christ:

    “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4.15

    This is done by speaking.
    And speaking the truth; not simply in terms of ‘honesty’ but the truth of Jesus.
    And this is done togeather, in love

Therefore, in electing the in-coming committee it was important to consider who would prepare God’s people for works of service.
It is both humbling and liberating to be one of God’s people.
All called by his grace. And all taking part in his work.

Part 2 on the ‘all union’ AGM will be up soon.

*A clarification on the voting within the eu: I’m not exactly sure how other USU clubs and societies do it, but as far as I know the democracy within the eu seems kind of skewed since members tend to be unfailingly agreeable. But those that are brave also ‘abstain’. Maybe this is a problem, I don’t know. And I think it’s a good problem to have, since the candidates for leadership (from the years I have been at uni) have been so well suited in their positions that it’s valuable to have full support from those whom they are to serve.
Alas, being that I’m an associate member of the eu (i.e. without ‘access’) I don’t get the responsibility and privilege of voting. But I wonder if anyone has ever voted against the nominated leaders within the eu?


P.S. This was copied and pasted from facebook ‘Notes’ application. After having had written the draft, I figured that the negative tones in ‘redundancy’ and the voting bullet point was emo enough to qualify for this blog. Please excuse any awkward formatting.

P.P.S. I’m still unsure as to how to do some of the fancy things on this blog, like making the passage pop-up when I reference them. But stephenmac will teach me in his good time. In the meantime, I thank him, once again, for the many friendly chats we’ve had when I pop into chappo without warning.

On Just War: Part II – Alternatives (b) by StephenMac
September 15, 2009, 11:14 am
Filed under: Reflections

**Currently listening to Rust (The Short Story of Mary Agnosia) – anchor&braille on purevolume… still haven’t forked out for the album yet… can only get it from the US 😦 **

2. Alternatives within Just War theory

During the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, approaches to Just War Theory changed. Previous to the Enlightenment, just war theory had been within the domain of Christian thought. With Jesus Christ as the common moral imperator between “Christian” nations, just war theory had a common moral vocabulary and a common moral framework, and most importantly, a common moral authority within which to work. However, abuses of the system, namely the Crusades, and the holy wars of the Reformation period led to disenfranchisement with this “Christian” conception of just war theory. Just war became an excuse for war, rather than a restriction of it. Thus, Jesus’ role as the common moral authority was disputed, and legalism, a sub-tradition emerging from canon law, became the common authority underpinning just war theory.

In short, just war theory became a legal theory, rather than a moral theory.

This is a trend that has persisted through to today. The three main tenets of just war theory, jus ad bellum (justice in going to war), jus in bello (justice in fighting a war), and jus post bellum (justice in post-war settlement) now find themselves codified in international laws. Jus ad bellum has been codified into the UN Charter, with Chapter 7 making the provisions for legitimate use of war. Jus in bello finds itself in Geneva Conventions (particularly Conventions IV and VI). And just post bellum is represented in the International Criminal Court.


**This post is based partially on an article written for the Sydney Globalist.

On Patricious… by patricious
September 10, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Reflections

(Reflections on Me, I guess… or stephenmac and myself)


Btw, This puts stalking at a whole new level…

But before I do anything else, I really should introduce myself:

My name is Patrick.

It’s from the Latin word for ‘nobleman’, Patricious.

I am about the same age as stephenmac but am substantially less educated than he is. He studied at the same level as my older brother (not because of anything special, just the way things work out with the education system in NSW) hence we are somewhat better acquainted. I don’t remember us really hanging out during high school, but university does permit for more social interaction between the year groups for some strange reason (most likely because age is no longer a factor in sharing a class with someone). I’ve never shared a class with Steve my whole life.

But we do share in God’s grace. Steve and I are both followers of Jesus. Thus I consider him more like a brother than a friend. We both participated in one of the Christian groups at uni, the Evangelical Union. Some would encourage students to go to Sydney University just because of the EU. I would, in jest, agree. The conversations we’ve had over the years have made me realise how blessed we’ve been to have been immersed with sound doctrine and a genuinely loving community in high school carrying on to university.

But in these last [few] days, Steve has really been instrumental in indoctrinating me into the life of a college boy.

This evolved from inviting me over to play a game of pool in the men’s common room, to even sneaking me in to use their shower facilities. Long story, but my situation was cold, dire and dirty.

Even this guest-blog is surely a foot-in-the-door attempt to get me to buy into college (sooner rather than later). Being that the blog-o-sphere has just become one of those integral communicative tools for pastors and teachers for their thoughts and words of wisdom as they progress in their ministry. Alas, it can also work as a distraction. It’s just one of those things that a lot of college boys get into.

But, yes, I do intend to attend a Bible college at some point. The many coffees and conversations I’ve had with Steve (he’s even fed me a couple of times) have been really helpful to that end. Even at times when I’ve questioned my abilities regarding this calling..

Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself as a friend and brother of stephenmac.

With regards to “Reflections of a Broken Man”, I told Steve my blog posts are likely to be quite emo. To which he responded, “PERFECT!”

I will probably start up my own blog soon after this (depending on how addicted I become).

At least it’s gotten me writing something (as opposed to my essay question…)

And thanks to all of you that actually read this.

That’s right, you two…

On Introductions by StephenMac
September 10, 2009, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Reflections

As I have been distracted, I haven’t written anything recently…

However, don’t despair! Patrick has volunteered to post his own reflections!

Welcome Pat!