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EFAC Australia

Theology

What will lead us to overcome the fears that keep us silent when people reallyWhat will lead us to overcome the fears that keep us silent when people reallyneed us to speak?

Jeff Hunt is Unichurch Minister at St Matthew’s Shenton Park W.A.

The group’s conversation takes a turn, suddenly you’re all discussing the evil of terrorism and religious extremism, your friend turns to you and says: “You’re a Christian, right?”

Below the various thoughts that rush into your mind, a situation like this will undoubtedly bring a stream of emotions too, chief among them: fear.

Fear that somehow this conversation will bring embarrassment or rejection. Fear that we will be exposed: not knowing how to articulate what we believe. Those anxieties might be real, and yet, it’s crucial that we work out how to overcome our fear if we’re to love God and our neighbours by sharing the good news of Jesus.

The problem with fear

The American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum calls fear "the emotion of narcissism" since it "is always relentlessly focused on the self and the safety of the self." This resonates with our experience of life: the presence of fear oft en drives us into ourselves, concerned primarily for self-preservation above all else. By necessity then, it prevents us loving God or others as we ought. Or as Nussbaum states: “Fear is a "dimming preoccupation": an intense focus on the self that casts others into darkness.”

This is especially true in conversations that involve Jesus. How can we break free of fear, so that we might be able to consider the needs of the person in front of us? How can we overcome our own worries, so we can see the profound difference the gospel will make for their lives? How can we stop fixating on what people will think of us, and start caring about what they will think of Christ?

The prayer for courage

The apostle Paul too, was someone who regularly faced fearful situations. From shipwrecks to imprisonment awaiting trial, Paul’s story is one of constant danger as he travelled around proclaiming the gospel. So it’s possible to imagine Paul as this gung-ho, alpha-male type, impervious to fear. But consider his prayer request to the Ephesians:

19Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20

Paul realizes that fear will stop him proclaiming the gospel. And since he’s in prison right now he’s got good reason for fear! So, he asks his Christian brothers and sisters to pray - not that he might never feel fear, but that he might not be controlled by it. To pray he will keep declaring the gospel fearlessly–as if–he wasn’t afraid at all.

It’s a prayer I think we should continue to pray for each other: that God would give us courage to act over our fears, especially in our sharing of the gospel like Paul.

The power of security

In the face of fear, we’re to pray for courage to act, but the Christian’s basis for that is our security. We know we can cry out to God in prayer because our value and identity are secure. No matter how thoroughly we stuff up this conversation, or how much ridicule we face, the Christian can’t be dislodged from the eternal salvation that is theirs Christ.

That’s the logic of Paul’s triumphant summary in Romans 8. The assurance of the love of God is the basis for our courage and confidence in the face of every pain and pressure, threat and fear.

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

So next time you’re graciously thrust into a wild, random, gospel-sharing opportunity, take a moment to register if you’re afraid, then cast it aside with the help and security given by King Jesus.

The basic positions may not have shifted in the ministry-and-gender conversation, but the cultural context around it has. Kara Hartley looks at it from the complementarian point of view. Kara is the Archdeacon for Women in the Diocese of Sydney.

 When it comes to the ongoing disagreements in evangelicalism about the Scriptural teaching on the roles of women in Christian leadership the phrase from Ecclesiastes 1:9 comes to mind, ‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’ That is not to say nothing has been written. On the contrary, over the last 20 years there have been numerous books, blogs, articles, and talks given to the topic. Commentators from both sides continue to advocate their position with passion and vigour. I have been asked to write about whether there have been any new developments in these debates, without necessarily repeating all that has gone before. My conclusion is that despite all the ink that’s been spilled (or keyboards that have been thumped) no real game-changing arguments have emerged. The disagreements so passionately debated are generally a rehash of what has been said already. Yet while the arguments haven’t necessarily changed, the context in which we have them has. Various conversations around sexuality and gender, movements like #metoo and issues relating to domestic violence have certainly placed a renewed spotlight on Scripture’s teaching on roles of men and women, in both the home and in the church.

That the late Archbishop Donald Robinson’s thought and ministry have already had a significant influence in Australian Anglican circles is clear. Here Chase Kuhn puts his finger on the conviction at the heart of Robinson’s enduring influence. Chase R. Kuhn lectures in Christian thought and ministry at Moore Theological College.

Archbishop Donald W. B. Robinson’s most enduring influence has been, and will no doubt continue to be, his high esteem for the Word of God as the governing authority of all of the Christian life. This esteem for Scripture was a hallmark of his biblical theological studies, agreeable with what he believed to be the best of Anglicanism, and therefore definitive of his ministry.

Although the debate between complementarians and egalitarians has not been revolutionised
lately, there are still real developments that the egalitarian Tim Foster wants to draw our
attention to. Tim Foster is Vice Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne. 

For many the gender debate is like Groundhog Day, playing out in predictable ways, retracing old steps and unable to move forward. And yet there have been some interesting developments that may not have decided the matter, but which served to move the discussion forward. There are two major developments that I will consider. The first concerns a shift in the biblical discussion away from the Pauline corpus to consideration of how women are understood in a broader range of NT texts. The other concerns the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, whether the Son is functionally subordinate to the Father and what bearing it has on the submission of women to male authority.

Surely God is complicated. How else could he be both one and three? Or create and uphold the swirling, manifold world we inhabit? Or be both just and loving towards us? Ben Underwood investigates.

‘There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions’
(Article 1 of The 39 Articles.)

I had a good grounding at theological college in Biblical studies, Biblical languages, Biblical theology and some areas of doctrine—atonement and justification for example. But you can’t cover everything, and one of the areas in which I did not manage to get much under my belt was in the doctrine of God. In recent years I have become interested in theology proper, the quest to think about what it is for God to be God, which includes trying to talk about the being and attributes of God. It has been a perennial conviction of Christian theology that one of the unique characterisations of God is that he is simple. But the student of theology quickly discovers that divine simplicity is in many ways counter-intuitive and not easy to grasp. And yet thinking about it has repaid the effort for me, as a way into reflecting on how God is not like his creatures, but transcends them, and why he can be depended upon.

Getting a feel for the meaning of God’s simplicity

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