Monday, 4 March 2013

Towards a New Zealand Christology: Making Christ a hometown hero in backyards across New Zealand.

This essay was written to answer the Question: Does a “New Zealand Christology” make sense? Defend your answer. It is one of my favorites for two reasons 1) it got an A 2) it included quotes from both The Lads and Mumsdollar. 

Towards a New Zealand Christology: Making Christ a hometown hero in backyards across New Zealand.

 New Zealand musicians the lads once asked “What if God came down? Came to your hometown?[1]” They were, of course, referring to Christ’s incarnation, when God came to Earth in human flesh. But what if Christ became incarnate and came and dwelt in the “hometowns” of New Zealand? What if our theological reflections, as the People of God in Aotearoa New Zealand,[2] allowed Christ to make his home in the culture of New Zealand? This essay will explore that possibly. It will look at some of the key elements of New Zealand culture, and what that says about New Zealand people. It will them attempt to integrate a Christological understanding of who Christ is with New Zealand culture. It will do so from the conviction that this should not be undertaken simple as an academic exercise, but rather, out of a desire to create a missional encounter with the culture of Aotearoa, in order to effectively communicate the gospel narrative to the people of the land. As we do so, the Spirit of Christ will teach us what it means to follow Christ in New Zealand.[3]

   We will begin by considering some of the attempts to make Christ a home in New Zealand by theologians. The research carried out for this essay suggests that most of the theology done in Aotearoa is ecclesiology or practical in nature. It is about understanding the Church in the New Zealand context. Others have also made this observation.[4] Yet, as important as ecclesiology is, it should not be done without a clear Christological basis. You cannot build a theology around what the church should look like in Aotearoa, without first attempting to understand who Christ is in New Zealand. One attempt which has been made is the Kiwi Bible by Chris Grantham. This is an attempt to “Kiwiise” the biblical native. For example, Jesus’ parable of the muted seed becomes the parable of the Pohutukawa seed.[5] There has also been some engagement with the historical Jesus debate, including with the Jesus Seminar.[6] Yet, this is not “a dominant strand” of biblical scholarship in New Zealand.[7] In general, it would seem that much more work is needed to be done in this area. Much of what has been done has less refection on kiwi culture than would have been hoped for.[8]  Therefore, this essay will focus on New Zealand culture, and how Christ can be related to it.

   An important figure in New Zealand’s theological history is Lloyd Geering. Geering is famous for his assertion that Jesus did not rise from the dead.[9] He argued that the New Testament reflects the early churches understanding of Jesus, rather than the “historical” Jesus, and understands Christianity to be concerned with history rather than mythology.[10] Unfortunately, this assertion is based on the assumption that there is no supernatural and thus no miracles, and therefore any claims of miracles must be mythological. Geering emphasises Jesus humanity,[11] but he does so at the total expense of his divinity.[12] He sees the “new world” Jesus promised as the world which was created by the enlightenment, and which is still coming into being.[13] He represents the voice of Liberal Protestant Theology in New Zealand. He was, at the time, Principal of Knox College, and was tried for heresy by the Presbyterian Church. However, the ideas articulated by Geering were not his own ideas, but rather part of a broader theological stream in western theological thought, of which New Zealand is a small part of. Yet they had an impact on the church in Aotearoa.

   It is fair to say that historically, the New Zealand Church has depended largely on the overseas “Western Church” for its theology and practices, in particular, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the ninetieth century, New Zealand’s churches developed a doctrinal framework which was both a “continuity and dependence[14]” on what it had received. This has largely continued until today. It means that much of New Zealand’s theology does not fit the rest of the ways Kiwis view life.[15] A current example would the Harvest outreaches, which relied on an American evangelist and American bands to give a gospel message. To some degree, this is inevitable. New Zealand is a small nation, and in an age of growing globalisation, it would be foolish to cut out overseas voices in the New Zealand Church. Yet there is also an opposite danger that the Church in Aotearoa is unable to grow theologically, as it realise on imported theologies. Christology is a critical area for this engagement, as Christ is the center of the faith.

   Theology is always done in a context. Therefore, in one sense, any Christology done in Aotearoa can be considered a New Zealand Christology. Yet there is more to it than that, as it is possible to do theology without reference to the context in which it originates. Kiwi Christology should come out an engagement with Kiwi culture and the issues facing Kiwis.  It must be Christology which is consciously done in response to a New Zealand context, to make Christ at home in Aotearoa, rather than just a Christology which happens to be written in Aotearoa or by a New Zealander. Therefore, a New Zealand Christology should go hand in hand with mission in New Zealand. It should not be done as an academic exercise,as an attempt to help New Zealand take its theological place in the academic world. Rather, it should be done out of an attempt to connect New Zealanders with Christ, out of the issues which New Zealanders face, and out of an attempt to answer the questions which New Zealanders are asking.

   Before this is possible, it’s necessary to decide if there is a New Zealand culture, and if so, what it is.  There are two key objects to there being one. Firstly, it could be argued that Kiwi culture is simple a part of the wider western culture, which is largely derived by America culture. This is partly true, as New Zealand is part of the wider, globalising world, which impacts the culture.[16] Yet it would be a mistake to say that New Zealand is just a reflection of American culture. There are cultural themes which reflect a distantly kiwi culture, which will be discussed below. Furthermore, it’s equally questionable to speak of a “western culture”, as it itself is made up of diverse cultures.  American culture, for example, is different to British Culture. Secondly, it can be argued that Aotearoa is so diverse that it has no distinct culture of its own, but is the collation of many sub-cultures. Again, this is partly true. New Zealand is a very diverse nation, which will also be discussed below. Yet Darragh defines New Zealand’s context as a national one.[17] He justifies this by the fact that geographically, New Zealand is an isolated unit. He goes on to say that within New Zealand however, there are many other contexts, based on race, culture and location.[18] Yet there are something’s which are common to all kiwi culture, which we will now turn to.

Working Theology of Missional Leadership Essay

So, since I have a lot of old assignment which I did while I was at Laidlaw saved, and I have this blog, I thought that I may as well put some of the better ones up, so that others can (if they wish) read something of the things I was thinking while I was a budding young theology student. Hope you enjoy!

This first one is one I did in my second year for Tim Keels class, "Missional Church Leadership" and is more or less a summary of what I learned in that paper. As it was one of my favorite papers, I though that it would be a good one to start with!

Working Theology of Missional Leadership Essay

There are numerous ideas and understandings about what leadership is and what role a “leader” should play in the context of a missional church. Often, leadership models developed in political or business spheres are adopted into a Christian understanding, simply applied for a context foreign to the people of God. While these can be helpful, as followers of Christ it is important that our leadership is modeled on Christ: on who he is, how he led and what he is leading towards. The gospel demands a strongly incarnational and cross shaped model of leadership. This essay will set out a theology for missional church leadership that is shaped by the incarnation of Christ. It will be based around four verbs that reflect critical activities in the life of a leader: knowing, being, doing and relating. It will show missional leadership to be an activity that must be practiced the way Christ practiced it.


Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 2:15-17). Knowing whether or not you love Jesus is the beginning point for church leadership. Christians can only lead if they know the incarnate and triune God.1 There is much that a Christian leader must know: they must know their Bible, their theology, their context, and their structures. But unless they know Jesus, nothing else is worthwhile. It was the question which Jesus asked of Peter, and is the question that he asks leaders today. To love Jesus is to be present to Jesus.2 Therefore, discerning how God is present in the midst of day-to-day living demands a new posture which must be learned. If we do not love Jesus, then leadership can become an attempt to win God’s favour or grab power.3 This spells disaster not only for congregations, but the leaders themselves. The remedy is to remember the unconditional love of Jesus. The more leaders know of Jesus’ love for them, the more they will love Jesus in return.
Leaders must also know the story of what God is doing.4 This is the story which is told in the Bible. It is a great story told through many small stories. It is a story which encompasses the whole of humanity, from creation to new creation. It’s the story of Israel and the Church, of homecomings and exiles, of joys and of struggles. It is a story written in collaboration between God and his people. It is a story of ancient history and yet of total relevance. It’s a story which must become part of our DNA.5 It is the story which missional leaders need to tell, to act, to live and to love. Therefore, it is critical that leaders have a well thought out theology based upon serious reflection of the story of God. Theology reflects the ways we think about God and it should develop out of a context of incarnational community.6 It should lead the community not to know about theology, but to think theologically.7 Such a community will know the story of Christ so well that they will begin to think with the “mind of Christ.” It is only with the mind of Christ that Christ’s attitudes of humility and love can begin to grow. (Philippians 2: 5-8)
However, leaders also need to know what God is doing today. We are still living within God’s ongoing story and thus we live by faith that God is going to continue his story in our context.8 Therefore, leaders also need to know their context. It is critical that missional church leaders understand their own context and the ways in which culture is changing around them. Culture is not something static, but is forever evolving. Recently, we have seen a number of changes in Western culture, including the change from a modern to a postmodern worldview, new global needs, globalisation, pluralism and technological changes.9 If leaders don’t understating the changes in culture, the church risks irrelevance and possibly even death.10 The role of a leader is similar to that of a mapmaker who must draw maps for their people to help them navigate in the new contexts in which they find themselves.11 This gives leaders the ability not only to name culture, but also how culture has impacted the church. Yet it is not simply a case of applying social theories to church. We need to think theologically about where society is at. Within the biblical narrative we see that the people of God have faced both times of stability (location), such as when Israel lived in the Promised Land, and times of great change (liminality), such as when Israel was in exile. Leaders are called to discern and name whether they are living in times of liminality or location. Peter, for example, understood the Christians he was writing to be living in a time of exile (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11.)
God is not just saving individuals; he is also building a new people, the people of God. Therefore, missional leadership happens within the context of the people of God called the Church. The church is called to live incarnationally in their communities. As it does so, it develops habits and practices which tell the story of God, which inevitably turn into structures. A missional leader needs to understand the nature and origins of their context’s structures. This includes awareness of how historical factors such as economic changes impact on both church and social structures.12 Also, alongside official structures, there are always unofficial structures, which are often harder to name. Missional leaders need to cultivate structures which serve the mission, rather than running “missions” which serve the structures. The structures put in place must help grow the group into being an incarnational community. For example, many churches send families overseas as “missionaries.” However, a better approach could be to send out a number of families together to create community in a different context. These structures can help to create a culture. Congregations must create an alternative culture based around the gospel and what it means to be the people of God in a particular place.13 Thus by naming existing structures, leaders are able create structures to develop a culture of incarnational living as God’s people.

Better late than never... Top 60 Laidlaw Quotes for 2011

So, as some of you may know, when I was at Laidlaw, I had a habit of collecting funny quotes which people said. Here is the top 60 quotes for 2011 (minus the others which I decided were too incriminating to publish.) Sorry that they are now over a year out of date, I kind of forgot about them. Hope you enjoy then!

60.Nathan: there are no forks. Amber: Forkward….
59. Bianca: I’m just laughing at you.
58. Nathan: So not much is happening here. Naomi: Not really. We’re just cooking in the shower.
57.Phil: Aren't elephant’s matriarchal societies? Naomi: You will fit in then.
56. Amber: Totes.
55. Melissa: James, he was the sexy evil one. 
54. Alice: Man I would really care what you think if you were my friend.
53. Naomi: I don’t try to be mean, it comes naturally.
52. Amber: Boys should have mirrors. Then they wouldn't be so ugly.
51 Phil: I prefer the bigger mirror: so I can see more of me.
50. Nathan: It can’t be a church service: we didn't sing anything by Hillsong.
49. Sarah: We went on a cruise…..on the ferry…. to Devonport.
48. Nathan: Don’t want to be a Canadian Idiot… Tom: Flip, no!!!
47. Amber: Totes!
46. Naomi: I don’t really care about you.
45. Jared: your face is the theology of suffering. .  .
44. Hannah: Jesus is not relevant.
43 Laura: Talking to you is a waste of my natural responses.
42. Roland: If you don’t add me on Facebook, then we will be friends undercover.
41. Nathan: Why would I stalk you online when I could stalk you in real life?
40. Laura: Are you stroking children again? That is cute!
39. Kent: (right after a fart) that sounded like people dying. 
38. Laura: I feel bad about killing my family. Daniel: Yeah, you shouldn't do it.
37. Amber: Jared, you are a loin fruit.
36. Naomi: According to this, I can go down K Road and look at Thingies.
35. Nathan: We should go there for lunch one night
34 Naomi: For that you will need a broom broom.
33. Sebbie: If you died tonight, you will be in soul sleep…
32. Amber: Totes builds people up, it brings people together.
31. Phil: Amber just earned her salvation
30. Amber: Totes!!
29. Naomi: I don’t like the idea of other people living.
28. Nathan: Maybe you should be losing faith in humanity.
27. Roland: life is like an action movie. Richie: It’s a pretty boring movie. Roland: You’re in it.
26. Al: I think you need to watch it; otherwise your laptop is an instrument of sin.
25. Ben: You should watch the books.
24. Gulia: Praying mantises are sexy.
23. Phil: you’re the type of person we get in the Salvation Army: crazy.
22. Amber: Totes!!!
21. Nathan: Be evil to infants.
20. Sarah: Nathanus removius!!
19. Roland: I've finished my exegetical, so now I’m going to talk about girls.
18. Roland: I don’t think women are ignorant, I just think that they remember selectively.
17. Amber: Totes inapprops!!
16. Roland: When I kiss girls they cry… wow!
15. Laura: Women are sadistic.
14. Naomi: We have to be aware of our bodies and be dickheads.
13. Christine: Have affair with me. Luke: I’m Not Gay. Christine: I’m a Chick.
12. Laura: you are glowing with health. Phil: are you pregnant?
11. Amber: Most people in my family have babies when they are in their teens, but I’m breaking the tread. Josh: Nek minnit…
10. Amber: I want a bat to poo on my face.
9. Jared’s friend: I just need to go to the bathroom. Jared: You can use my bedroom if you want.
8. Laura: I’m just going to eat this cookie… Nathan: and buy those shoes!!
7. Ash: I didn’t do anything dodggy. Christian: What do you mean?! Why not?
6. Amber: Is there an adult My Little Pony?
5. Jared: If you think bestiality is cute, then yeah.
4. Laura: I don’t believe that, but I like Jesus and you like Jesus, so let’s Party!! Untst untst untsts…..
3. Christine:  I’ll be your nurse for the next few weeks. I’ll even wear the costume for you.
2. Jared: your mind is like a drank. It feels comfortable in the gutter.
And the number one Laidlaw quote of 2011…      

Amber: Totes!!!!!!!