About Tom Richards

I am an Australian pastor serving with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu. I currently teach at Talua Theological Training Institute on Santo and formerly taught at Enefa on Tanna. Mi wan man Ostrelia be mi stap long Vanuatu we me wan pasta wetem PCV we me stap tij long Talua Theological Training Institute long Santo. Bifo me wok long ples ia be bin tij long Enefa long Tanna.

Did Israel Folau Quote the Bible?

For some, all Israel Folau did was to quote a 2000-year-old text. Others are not so sure.

The Instagram post that led to his sacking by Rugby Australia is a meme accompanied by a ‘caption’ (using Insta’s language).

Claiming that Folau quoted the Bible in his caption should be uncontroversial. There are three passages there, faithfully cut-and-pasted from a recognised translation.

But it was the meme, not the caption, that caused offence. The problem, evidently, was the word ‘homosexuals,’ and it doesn’t appear in the caption.

So, the question then is: did Israel Folau quote the Bible in the meme?

Not as such. Izzy didn’t create the meme. It predates his post. For example, @travon_love posted it on IG in June 2017, and that was a repost of a now-closed account.

A google search of ‘visually similar’ images reveals that there is another version with slightly different text. In fact, warnings of hell presented as road/danger signs appear to be a sub-genre of Christian memes – that is, they’re a thing.

So, the question then is: did Israel Folau post a meme that quotes the Bible?

No, he didn’t. At least not in the sense that a quote would contain the exact words and phrases used in the original. The closest Bible passage is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, but it is not quoted. Check it out for yourself! Here it is in the closest translation:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10 NKJV)

So, the question then is: did Israel Folau post a meme that is a reasonable paraphrase of the Bible?

Now we’re dabbling in shades of grey – a grey that I am sorry to say turns out to be rather pale.

The meme is true to the Bible only in the sense that most of what it says can be deduced from the passage if we combine it with a little prior knowledge.

1 Corinthians 6:9 says that ‘wrongdoers’ will not inherit the ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’ If we know the Bible, we know that in this context, among other things, the Kingdom of Heaven refers to eternal life in a New Creation. The meme makes the correct inference that the destination of those who do not inherit this kingdom is hell (see Mark 9:45-48).

But – and this is a significant but – the meme does not reflect the verse’s most natural sense.

There are a few problems:

Firstly, the meme is targeted at non-Christians, calling them to repent. In these verses, Paul is writing to Christians, reminding them of what they once were (1 Cor 9:11).

Secondly, Paul is not threatening the Corinthians with hell; he is reminding them of who they already are (people who will inherit the Kingdom) and imploring them to act accordingly.

Thirdly, the meme introduces the idea of salvation, which is not in the text, and does so in a way that is not true to the letter.

The Corinthian church was not ‘being saved’ (1 Cor 1:18) principally because they stopped committing these sins (although that’s important), but because they called ‘on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and held to the message of his death and resurrection (1 Cor 1:2; 15:2). Those who are ‘perishing’ are those for whom this message is ‘foolishness’ (1 Cor 1:18). The meme focuses on behaviour; Paul focuses on the gospel.

Fourthly, the meme has manipulated the list of sins. Coveting (or greed) – a sin that is sometimes swept under plush carpet in western Christianity – has been left out and replaced with ‘atheists’ – a virtually unknown phenomenon in Paul’s day.

‘Revilers’ (or slanderers) escaped the meme’s attention. ‘Extortioners’ appear to have morphed into ‘liars’ (I guess they use lies to extort?). And the order has changed, making ‘drunks’ and ‘homosexuals’ more prominent, while idolatry and heterosexual sexual sins have been shuffled down the list.

Lastly, the word ‘homosexuals’ is problematic. Today, most people think of homosexuality as an innate orientation. However, the two Greek words that the meme combines as ‘homosexuals,’ focus more on the act than the orientation.

I think Rugby Australia would have found the meme offensive regardless of this subtlety. But people who experience same-sex attraction should know that, according to the Bible, they are not condemned for that attraction any more than a heterosexual person is condemned for experiencing wrong sexual desires. Both need their sexuality redeemed and all their sins forgiven. Both desperately need Christ and are called to live according to his kingdom.

So, did Israel Folau quote the Bible? No, he posted a meme that is a very loose paraphrase and supported it with a Bible verses in his caption.

However, what he posted is broadly consistent with the church’s historic understanding of the Bible; God is angry with human sin – including those listed – and will punish it at final judgment unless we are ‘saved’ from this destiny through Jesus. This happens – as one of Izzy’s texts indicates – when we receive forgiveness for our sins.

#istandwithizzy and the Little Problem of the Trinity

Israel Folau’s high profile has positioned him as the public face of Australian Christianity’s fight for freedom following his sacking by Rugby Australia. However, little has been said about what Folau actually believes and whether all Christians should really stand with him.

Back in January 2018, Folau replied to a tweet saying:

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (henceforth TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit.

T. D. Jakes has preached God as ice, water, and steam. They are all one in being H2O, yet the H20 changes from one form to another:

“If you want to understand the relationship between Christ and God, next time you have a glass of water put some ice in it and figure out which one of them is H2O.”

Others have pictured God as an actor wearing different masks, or as a one-person band, although no one analogy would be agreed on by all modalists.

This is radically different to the Doctrine of the Trinity which describes God as one in essence (his essential divine makeup) and three distinct persons (meaning identities that can relate). Jesus is not God the Father in a created body, he is God the Son who has existed in all eternity, sharing the one divine nature with the Father and Spirit. The Spirit is not just an active manifestation of God, he is a separate identity who relates to the Father and Son, and to us. The Father, Son and Spirit are not like ice, water, and steam because the Father is always the Father, the Son always the Son, and the Spirit always the Spirit.

The most popular form of modalism today is Oneness Pentecostalism which has 24 million adherents worldwide, making it larger and faster growing than other non-trinitarian groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. This movement is not cohesive and contains many denominations, but an overarching difference between its modalism and that of the early church is that it usually allows for God to exist in different modes simultaneously – allowing, for example, for all three of God’s modes to be present at Jesus’ baptism.

Interestingly, while Folau shares much theology with the oneness movement, he does not identify as a Oneness Pentecostal. One reason for this is, as he said in reply to a tweet on 24/10/10, he is “going under no denomination, following his teaching straight from the bible.”

Likewise, TOJC Church says they “do not fall under any denomination or religion but the truth of God from his reliable source the Bible.” There is also a difference between TOJC Church and some Oneness Pentecostals in that TOJC does not believe in the necessity of speaking in tongues for salvation.

Having noted this difference, I will talk about the contemporary modalist movement, including Folau’s beliefs, under the general term “Oneness Theology.”

Oneness Theology and the Bible

So, should we refer to Israel Folau as a Christian? Or, put another way, is he a heretic, or is this simply an error on which Christians are free to differ? One way to think about the difference between heresy and error is to think about how central the error is in our system of theology.

If we accept that the gospel is at the centre of our theology and that it is the gospel through which we are saved, then we can say that something is heretical if it affects the Doctrine of the Gospel or is a stumbling block for salvation.

I see five main problems with Oneness Theology as it relates to God as Father, Son, and Spirit.  But firstly, we should note that Izzy Folau and oneness adherents believe that Jesus is fully God, they hold to the Bible as the Word of God, the sinfulness of all mankind, the doctrine of hell, and see the urgency of evangelism. Folau has publicly rejected the prosperity gospel and calls out Christian leaders whom he perceives to be primarily interested in personal popularity and profit. These factors make Folau and other oneness adherents appear to be evangelical. However, things are not always as they first seem.

Oneness theology doesn’t deny the deity of Christ; it denies that he is a separate identity within the one God. This is still a serious issue. Believing in a mode of God that was first manifested at the time of the incarnation is very different to understanding Jesus as a personal identity through whom we were predestined for adoption before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4-6), through whom the world was created (Jn 1:3) and who was active during the Old Testament period (Jn 12:41). 1 John 5:12 says:

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 Jn 5:12 NIV).

And here is the first problem: the identity of Jesus within Oneness differs from the Bible to the point that we must conclude that Oneness adherents do not believe in the biblical Jesus.

Equally, a second problem comes in the fact that while Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God (Jn 17:3), Oneness Theology, by definition, is limited in its ability to know God. Both Anselm and Calvin realised that the way that God works outwardly, reflects the way that he is internally. We can only really understand God in his “oneness” through his “three-ness” because it is in his persons that we most see him at work.

For example, John can say that God is love (1 Jn 4:8), but that tells us little about God unless we know the true nature of love. The Bible defines love through the relationships and actions of the persons of the Trinity: we see it in the eternal relationship of the Father and Son (Jn 17:24), through the Father’s sending of the Son (Jn 4:10), and through the Son’s sacrificial death (Jn 15:13).

A third problem follows from these relationships in that if we lose the separate identities of the Father and Son, we lose the real example of their relationship as a model for ours. For example, the unity of the three persons within the one God should model our unity within the church (Jn 17:22-23), and the Son’s submission to the Father models our own suffering and obedience (1 Peter 2:18-21; Heb 5:8-10). 

This brings us to a fourth problem and the crux of the matter: Oneness Theology undermines the atonement. In the atonement, the Father sends the Son (1 Jn 4:10) and presents him as the sacrifice that takes away his own wrath (Rom 3:25). This is a legal transaction that requires two separate identities; the sacrifice and the one to whom the sacrifice is presented. The whole notion of the atonement breaks down if there is only one party involved. The judge would be pronouncing a corrupt judgment if the reparation had not been made to the offended party (Rom 3:26).

A Oneness adherent could perhaps give the example of a judge who chose to pay a fine himself. However, even in this case, the fine must be paid to the state. If the state paid the fine to itself, it would essentially be cancelling the debt without payment – and so justice is not done. God is both the judge and the offended party, and in a sense he pays the debt himself because Christ is fully God, but in order for the logic to work, he does this in the person of Christ who is a separate identity to God the Father.

Fifthly, oneness theology undermines our assurance by diminishing Jesus’ current work at the Father’s side. We are assured that we have a perfect high priest who appears for us in God’s presence (Heb 9:24) and we are comforted in the knowledge that Jesus knows our human weakness and so can help us in temptation (Heb 2:18). This assurance relies on the existence of two identities; a high priest and God the Father in whose presence the priest ministers. Oneness adherents might argue that God can operate in both modes simultaneously, but this denies the power and reality of having a flesh and blood brother interceding for us.

It is not surprising given the weakening of Christ’s atonement and session, that oneness adherents fall into works-based salvation. I have shown elsewhere that Folau’s call for sinners to repent is a call to his particular theology of salvation which includes, by necessity, baptism in (only) Jesus’ name and the human laying on of hands to receive the Spirit. 

Since oneness theology presents a significantly different God, a different Christ, and undermines Christ’s atonement and session, we, therefore, must conclude that Izzy Folau adheres to heretical beliefs.

Notice what I did not say. I did not say that Izzy isn’t saved or that hell necessarily awaits him. I do not believe that we need a full understanding of the Trinity to be justified and I accept the possibility that people within heretical movements can be saved. God will judge us on what has been revealed to us (Lk 12:48), and I will leave that judgement in his righteous hands.

However, I do call Izzy to repent. He is right in warning people of the seriousness of sin; this could include a wilful ignorance of God’s nature. I also pray that God will send someone closer to him than I am, to lovingly rebuke him and lead him into a fuller knowledge of God. Please join me in that prayer. 

Should Christians Stand with Izzy?

But what about trinitarian Christians? Should we stand with Izzy? The answer is yes and no, and really yes.

I don’t think that we should stand with Folau in the sense of identifying too closely with him as a fellow Christian. He Identifies as a Christian and the Australian public see him that way, but there may be times that it’s helpful too respectfully say that we do not share significant beliefs. I would not want our solidarity with him to give credence to this fast-spreading heretical theology or to downplay its seriousness. I would not want him to be given speaking positions in churches because he is seen as a high-profile Christian or held up to the non-Christian world as an example of our faith. While he is sincere in what he believes and shares many beliefs with evangelicals, his doctrine does not measure up to the Bible.  

However, I do think that we should stand with Izzy in his fight to be able to express his faith publicly. I have two reasons for this.

Firstly, it would be hypocritical not to. In asking for freedom of religious expression, Christians are arguing that society is made richer for having religious voices and that positions of faith are reasonable and a normal part of the human experience. Izzy is expressing deep and sincere views that shape his identity and relate, in part, to his cultural heritage. We should fight for the same freedoms that we are asking Australia to grant to Christians to be extended equally to those who hold to oneness theology.

Secondly, Folau is not being persecuted for the beliefs that we don’t share with him, but specifically for those that we do share. While many of us might have preferred that Izzy present his views more graciously, we should agree that the Bible condemns drunkenness, homosexual sex, extra-marital sex, adultery, lying, theft, unbelief, and worship of idols and that hell awaits those who do not repent in response to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness. Silencing Izzy on this silences trinitarian Christians as well.

So #standwithizzy where it is good and right to stand with him and distance yourself on issues on which it is wise to do so. Pray for him that God will provide for his needs in court, and more so that he will reveal himself more fully to him.

Note: Israel Folau did not respond to my attempts to contact him – perhaps he has other things on his mind than the questions of an unknown teacher at a far-off Bible college. I am however thankful that a representative of The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney was able to graciously answer my questions.

The Folau Row and the Surprising Reasons Why Neither Side is Quite Right

Israel Folau One GodIsrael Folau’s provocative Instagram post has caused polarised reactions, not just in the realm of the unchurched, but within the factions of the faithful.

For Pete and Monique on the street, the offence relates to Folau stating publicly that unrepentant sinners will go to hell. Debate centres on whether someone can or should be dismissed from their employment for expressing convictions which are held by faith, and secondary issues regarding the finer legal points surrounding his contract.

For Sue and Hugh in the pew, the debate has centred around how Pete and Monique might hear Folau’s message, and whether or not his social media post constitutes a complete and balanced presentation of the gospel. For the finely tuned ears of the seeker sensitive, Folau’s Insta post was too much fire and brimstone and altogether lacking in any expression of God’s love or grace.

The highest profile of such views has been that of Hillsong’s Brian Houston, who, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, said, “while sin is a real issue, the God I know and seek to follow is a God of love.” Furthermore, he explains that he has seen that the “‘turn or burn’ approach to proclaiming the message of Christianity alienates people,” and does not “draw them into the love of Jesus.” The message that Houston would have liked people to have heard (and to hear through his piece) is that “God cared so much for the eternity of humankind that he sent his only son (sic.) to die in order that he might make a way for restoration and reconciliation.”

In turn, many conservatives have taken up Folau’s cause and rallied against Houston, pointing out that Houston’s message didn’t call sinners to repentance, and accusing him of preaching to itching ears. Ben Davis, writing on Cauldron Pool, states that Houston is “dangerously wrong” and “at odds with the New Testament” since the repent or perish message (aka “turn and burn”) was part of Jesus’ preaching in such places as Luke 13:3, 5. He says that by encouraging Folau and others away from preaching hell, Houston has in fact minimised sin and so the work of Christ.

In fairness to Houston, he does state clearly that there is a hell and implies that there will be a judgement by contrasting it to heaven. And, given that he said that sin is a real issue with consequences, I guess we could join the dots and say that sin leads one to hell.

However, the accusation levelled at Houston that he did not call people to repentance within his article must be upheld. While we learn that Folau, Margaret Court, and Houston himself have all “been captivated and adopted” into a story of which Jesus is at the centre, nowhere does he explain to our friends Monique and Pete how they too might be adopted, other than to say that they must experience the love of Christ.

In the spirit of being fair, we should note that Folau’s message wasn’t entirely the pastoral train wreck that it was purported to be. Sometimes with social media, the devil – or in this case the grace – is in the detail.

An IG post is fundamentally a picture. In this instance, it was a meme, presented as a warning sign that listed sins that roughly correspond to 1 Cor 6:9-10 or Gal 5:19-21, along with the statements, “Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.”

Instagram text is secondary but serves to explain and give context to the visual. Folau’s text included three Bible passages and his own comments which included: “Jesus loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.” So, love was not front and centre, but it was there, if, as with Houston’s article, we know how to join the dots.

Furthermore, Folau had actually already joined the dots for us and then went on to do the colouring in. Following a previous social media controversy, he wrote for Players Voice where he identified as a fellow sinner who has taken responsibility his sins and repents of them daily. Towards the end, he writes, “If you choose to believe in Him, repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the removal of your sins, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That will enable you to live the life that God called us to live.”

What we need to note here is that Folau talks about belief but focuses on the outworking of that faith in repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. More pointedly, his Insta post focused on repentance without a call to faith. To understand this emphasis, we need to understand something of Folau’s faith.

Israel Folau and The Truth About Jesus Church (Sydney), where he attends and teaches as a layperson, say that they do not fall under any denomination or religion, but seek the truth of God from his Word alone. Arising from their reading of Acts 2:37-38, The Truth About Jesus Church teaches that salvation – or being born again – comes through a sequential process whereby someone repents or their sins, receives water baptism in the name of Jesus, and then has hands laid on them with accompanying prayer so that they receive the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising then that the public testimonies made by church members emphasise a changed life and repentance from sin – an emphasis we find in Folau’s public statements.

If this seems to you to negate the Reformation teaching of “faith alone,” then you are on the right track but should appreciate the subtleties. The Truth About Jesus Church teaches, based on James 2:14, 17-19, that faith alone is dead faith. They argue that the works that are negated by passages like Eph 2:8-9 are dead works, but we are saved through righteous deeds including repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit baptism.

The tension between James’ and Paul’s use of “justified” is an important issue, but it is an important issue that has been handled elsewhere, and I would like to keep the focus only on the reasons behind Folau’s focus on repentance. Put simply, it is because of his theology of salvation i.e. that we are saved through the three-step process as outlined above.

This focus contrasts with the evangelistic approach that most evangelicals are familiar with, which focuses on a call to faith. For example, the popular resource, Evangelism Explosion, calls the listener to firstly to faith, focusing on Acts 16:13, “…Believe (trust) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” It then calls people to repentance separately as one of four things that faith entails; it means to be willing to turn from what is not pleasing to God and (assumedly) follow his will as it is revealed to us.

Houston’s article in the SMH was not the first public exchange between Houston and Folau. The pair had spared previously on both Twitter and Instagram. Folau counts Houston among prosperity preachers who “don’t ever speak of repentance, Hell, Sin” (Reply to Brian Houston on Twitter 27 June 2018). Conservatives, such as Davis, who came to Folau’s defence focused on the same issue, namely that we need to be explicit about sin and the need to turn from it.

Clearly, there are those within the church who feel that others are failing to preach repentance adequately. I did not mention EE because I set out to criticise it, but just to show a contrast between those who emphasise faith and those who stress repentance. If indeed there are some, as some of Folau’s supporters suggests, who have lost hold of repentance altogether or relegated it to the back seat, they might do well to note the warning.

While we must stand firmly upon passages like Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16, Eph 2:8-9, recognising that we cannot find favour in God’s eyes based on any good dead such as water baptism or a human interaction such as the laying on of hands, we must also note that Jesus did call people to repent alongside his call to believe (Mar 1:15). Likewise, Paul summarising his ministry to the Ephesian elders says, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).

This repentance is fundamentally a turning from the world or rival gods to the living God. An example of this was Thessalonians whose faith was seen in their changed allegiance (1 Thes 1:8-10). And yet, as part of the same action, repentance also has the dimension of turning from the behaviours associated with the world or rival gods, to behaviours associated with the Kingdom. The Colossian Christians are implored to, “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). This appeal was made on the basis that, “since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). That is, their behaviours should align with their status. John puts this another way, saying, “The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:7-8). Our behaviours indicate our allegiance. Repenting of our previous allegiance will entail repenting of our associated sin.

Repentance relates directly to faith. We need to believe that our King is who is says he is and can accomplish what he says he can accomplish if we are going to voluntarily submit to him. Declaring “Jesus is Lord” (Rom 10:9) necessitates both faith and repentance. First, I need to believe that Jesus is Lord, and if I do in fact believe that it will necessarily change my life because I know that Jesus is Lord.

However, while Houston’s critics have focused on repentance, those who have criticised Folau’s posts have not generally done so on the basis that it did not call the listener to faith, but on the basis that the call to repentance wasn’t done graciously. In a tweet last year, Houston says, “@IzzyFolau has lost touch with the goodness and grace of Jesus and it’s tragic.”

Anyone who read his article in Players Voice or has listened to him teaching in his local church (as I have done via recordings), will know that Izzy is gracious when he gives himself the time and space to express himself. This should highlight the dangers of public Christianity on social media. But the 140 characters of Twitter or visuals of Insta do force us to make a choice – like a teacher who restricts the word limit of an essay so that the student must decide what is most important – and the fact remains that Folau, following his theology of salvation, emphasised sin, hell, and repentance foremost and love, mercy, and grace secondarily.

Here, we should note the close logical relationship between faith and grace in the New Testament. If God has provided a way of salvation which does not rely on our insufficient works, then that must be by God’s grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8-10). This reminder of God’s gracious dealing with us will (or at least should) cause us to act with grace towards others. It is at least plausible that those who put faith front-and-centre in their message will be more mindful of the need to convey God’s grace to their listeners than those who focus on repentance.

Those who emphasise a call to repentance of sins are not wrong in doing so – we have seen that it is biblical so long as the call to repent of sin is given within the framework of repenting in allegiance – turning from the world and towards God – and based on faith in who Jesus is. However, those who emphasise repentance might do well to ensure that they are gracious in the way that they do it – especially in talking to the unchurched. When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan women in John 4, he confronts her with her sin but does so graciously. Even Peter in his “turn or burn” speech of Acts 2, identified with the crowd (2:14, 22, 29) and offered forgiveness alongside the call to repent (Acts 2:38).

I do not write this as an attempt to adjudicate in the disputes of people whom I have never met, but to try to bring shade and tone to what has been a polarised discussion. We need to be aware that Folau is doing more than merely calling sinners to repentance; he is calling all people to his particular theology of salvation, in his own words, “If you have done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again.”

Furthermore, the supporters of Folau, need to hear the challenge to position grace and faith on at least on equal billing with judgement and repentance, whether it be the prominent aspect of a social post or in our evangelistic message. On the other hand, those who have condemned Folau’s posts might also benefit from a theological self-audit to ensure that our preaching of grace and faith hasn’t lost contact with the call to repentance issued by Jesus and the Apostles.

So, Hugh and Sue, if you’re having Monique and Pete to dinner, please lovingly explain to them the problem of sin, and challenge them with the twin calls to faith and repentance.

Note: While Israel Folau’s beliefs concerning the Trinity have been called into question, this post only focuses on his ideas relating to salvation, repentance, and faith. The subtleties of his understanding of God and the broader issue of how other Christians who differ from his view should relate to him in his persecution is the topic for another discussion.


Book Throwing and the Mission of God: Part 4

Tom Richards, Vanuatu, Tanna, 2014, Man with MegaVoice

Tanna man using a MegaVoice, a solar-powered audio device loaded with a vernacular New Testament – one way in which someone might ‘receive’ or take in the Bible.

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box, Chapter 3

If you want to get the main idea and avoid the detail, jump to ‘The Written Elephant in the Oral Room’ (Click ‘read more’ and then scroll down ).

I should say right from the outset that if there is one chapter in this book that I am inclined to disagree with, it is this one.  It’s a great book and no doubt beneficial for learning to better communicate with oral people, but perhaps the case gets overstated here.  The chapter is worth reading, and in fact, I think when we think through the way in which Jesus’ disciples interacted with both written and oral texts, we notice some very important (and encouraging) things about engaging oral people with the scriptures.

Continue reading

Spaeglas: Luk Insaed

Spaeglas COMA for VanuatuContextualising COMA for Vanuatu: Part 3 (background here)

So, the college term is moving on and I’m continuing to struggle through teaching Interpreting the Bible.  For the time being I’m running with the title ‘Spaeglas’ for what was once COMA.  Spaeglas is the Bislama word for telescope or binoculars, and so is a metaphor for looking carefully at the text.  The four points being:

Luk Insaed                        (Look Inside)

Luk Afsaed                        (Look Outside)

Luk long Stamba            (Look for the Central Message)

Luk long Laef                  (Look to Life)

Here are the steps for Luk Insaed that I’m teaching at the moment for you to have a look at and maybe contribute to.  It’s not a lesson plan – this would be taught over about three lessons with homework in between – it’s more the bare bones; things to work through in order to thoroughly observe a passage.  It’s pretty rough and raw at the moment with little editing.

Compared to COMA – Observe, I have tried to make the steps more concrete and to use strategies that will work well for oral people, including some things I’ve picked up in the comments from previous posts – thank you so much.

Below the outline, I will add a couple of questions and areas that I can see need improvement and a little lesson illustration that you could help with (even if you don’t have Bislama).  Below that, in the comments, you can fire away with your own input (please!).    Continue reading