Stimulus Volume 23 Issue 2 - Jul 2016
Table of Contents
By the Rivers of Terror: A Response to James Mackay
The Voice: No If's, But's or Maybe's
Synergy: To Play is not Simply Child's Play
Theology: "I believe the truth is here": Musings on the Gloriavale Community
Vision: Batman v Superman
The Bible is a powerful book and its trace in modern life is more extensive than many in society would anticipate. The inevitable appropriation of the biblical text as a kingmaker on the American presidential campaign trail is indicative of its authority, power and persuasion, and unfortunately evidences how easily sacred texts can be wielded to support propaganda and political aims. Donald Trump’s favourite verse from the Bible (which is his favourite book according to the Atlantic Times), is “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” from Exodus 21:21–25. It’s telling, however, that Matthew 5:38–48, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount receives nary a mention. Matthew 5 is the very chapter where Christ conceptualizes love as a higher path than the cold justice of “eye for an eye”. In this issue of Stimulus, Hilary Johnston leads in with an exploration of this theme in her article, “By the Rivers of Terror: A Response to James Mackay”. Johnston engages with the contemporary readings of the Bible as they engage with politics concerning terror. She highlights the predilection of some to utilize the Bible to incite violence. Her reframing of Psalm 137 demonstrates how critical it is to read the Bible in context and as a whole, as well as making a clarion call for a peace that is not found on the other side of war.
This theme of the biblical and theological relation to contemporary justice continues in Joel McGeorges’ article “On restorative justice, public theology and being counter-cultural”. McGeorge connects us to current affairs closer to home, investigating the New Zealand justice system and the transformative impact of restorative justice approaches to the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, as well as its often positive impact on victims and/or their families. McGeorge explores the New Zealand restorative justice process through the lens of public theology and intentionally connects the principles of restorative justice to the heart of the gospel.
Chris Hannen engages with popular theology in his article, “Rob Bell and Origen: The eschatological conception of Apokatastasis.” In his article, Hannen challenges Rob Bell’s engagement with Origen’s eschatology in his popular book Love Wins. Hannen reviews the development of the concept of apokatastisis in the writings of Origen as well as Origen’s own critics in order to come to a conclusion regarding Bell’s emphasis on universal reconciliation/salvation. In a fascinating detour, with Jim Kerr, we leave the contemporary and enter the unique world of the Fourth Gospel with a reading of the text via signs and symbols. In this article Kerr guides the reader on a symbolic journey through the seven Johannine signs in order to present a compelling interpretation. Geoff New also contributes reading of the New Testament in his column that is entitled “No ifs, buts or maybes” which focuses on 1 Corinthians 16:5–9.
We welcome columns in this issue from Susan Grant and David Crawley. Susan Grant writes on the social, emotional and spiritual importance of “play”. Grant builds a case for “play” as a way of building relational connections, not only within families and communities, but also with God. Grant cements her argument further by suggesting “play” in its relation to spiritual wellbeing can lead towards experiences of wholeness. In his column, Crawley reflects on the Gloriavale Christian Community as presented in documentaries between 2014 and 2016. Crawley analyses snippets of narrative by Gloriavale Community members particularly noticing the use of the word “truth” in relation to power. Also in relation to power, Crawley analyses community members’ narratives around marriage observing the predominance of talk about “purity” and “submission”. Crawley illuminates here the burning question of why people stay in authoritarian religious situations, and what conditions may lead a person to resist.
In our art and reviews sections we have a poem from Ross Millar’s anthology of “Stations: Poems of the Cross” as well as a review from Stephen Garner that demystifies “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the messianic symbolism that is almost an expected element of the recent Superman film franchise. Finally, in our reviews section, Hugh Kemp provides an important overview of Christian literature engaging with Buddhism and specifically Christian literature engaging Buddhism in New Zealand which draws attention to the growing Buddhist community in New Zealand. Alongside review of this literature, Kemp also sketches the literary legacy of New Zealand mission to Buddhist countries as well as a number of testimonials and memoirs. As a whole Kemp’s review provides a comprehensive guide to literature on Christian approaches to engaging Buddhism and has a direct application for Christian interfaith dialogue with the Buddhist scene in New Zealand.
This is a diverse issue of Stimulus that engages with several contemporary themes that are of critical relevance in Christian thought and practice as well as articles and columns that draw us deeply into the biblical text. Thoughts of Psalm 19 “The heavens declare God’s glory” close this editorial, so it is with thanks, we acknowledge the fabulous artwork “Psalm 19” that graces the cover of this issue of Stimulus. The artist, Wendy Fowler, is a social practice lecturer at Laidlaw College.