The first Australian Scriptures

Couldn't Help Noticing, Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

Lun ellin Jehovah an pornum an Narrinyeri: pempir ile ityan kinauwe Brauwarate, ungunuk korn wurruwarrin ityan, nowaiy el itye moru hellangk, tumbewarrin itye kaldwamp.

You have just read the most famous verse of the Bible, John 3:16. It’s most likely the sentence translated into more languages than any other sentence ever written. (more…)

Bible heading fail: “Taming the Tongue”

Life, Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

When the biblical documents were originally written, the authors didn’t include section headings. The headings that appear in our modern Bibles were added later, by translators and editors. These headings are designed to divide the text into more manageable chunks, and to make it easier for us to look up passages. Although these headings can be helpful, they do have pitfalls. For example, a heading can create a break in the text which prevents us from seeing links between what comes before and after the heading. Even worse, at times, the heading is not an accurate summary of the passage at all; indeed, occasionally the heading implies something opposite to what the passage is saying. (more…)

WordWatch: The teeth of our exertions

Word Watch

Hunting down quotations is one of the most delightful of occupations, and a Briefing reader set me upon the track of the expression in the teeth of our exertions—employed by Spurgeon in one of his sermons. What, I was asked, does Spurgeon mean, and where did he get this expression from? (more…)

Word Watch: Mystery

Word Watch

I grew up thinking that a ‘mystery’ was a book written by Agatha Christie or one of her ilk. At the heart of such a book was an impenetrable puzzle that only a great detective could solve. The best of these, for me, were John Dickson Carr’s impossible “locked room” mysteries in which the victim would be found in a hermetically sealed room (all the doors and windows locked on the inside). Only a genius could solve a mystery of that order. (more…)

Terminating violent euphemisms


I was driving to the dentist enjoying a fun discussion on the radio about “squirmy words” when the awful subject of abortion came up.

Squirmy words are the words that make us squirm, and listeners were invited to contribute their favourite, or in this case least favourite, squirmy words. The list was quite fun to consider. Some words like ‘moist’ were apparently on everybody’s list; others like ‘snack’ were harder to relate to. It was a matter of intuition and feeling; of the emotive effects of words, and of their connotations and even their sounds. Most people couldn’t explain why they squirmed when they heard a particular word like ‘mummy’ or ‘yummy’. Some could be analyzed, such as those that related to different parts of human anatomy, or had particular historical associations for the individual, or were adult words applied to children or children’s words applied to adults. There was much hilarity in the discussion; the presenter laughing, even giggling, at the human foibles that words can elicit. Then somebody rang in to suggest ‘abortion’ as their squirmy word. (more…)

Exodus 3:14-15

Bible Brief

For most of us, our names have particular significance and meaning, but aren’t all that descriptive. For example, my namesake is the prophet Samuel of the Old Testament, but my parents didn’t call me Sam because of any special divine intervention. My daughter is named after one of our very good friends, but we’re actually not 100% sure what her name means—to us, it’s just her name. (more…)

→ Christian character and good arguments


Michael Horton has written a paper on constructing good arguments (and avoiding bad ones) for his students, and has cut out some of the essay-specific things to produce a short little set of guidelines for engaging well with people:

Especially in a “wiki” age, our communication today is prone to gushes of words with trickles of thought. We don’t compose letters much anymore, but blurt out emails and tweets. Just look at the level of discourse in this political campaign season and you can see how much we talk about, over, and past rather than to each other. Sadly, these habits—whether fueled by sloth or malice—are becoming acceptable in Christian circles, too. The subculture of Christian blogging often mirrors the “shock-jock” atmosphere of the wider web. “Don’t be like the world” means more than not imitating a porn-addicted culture, while we tolerate a level of interaction that apes the worst of TV sound-bites, ads, and political debates.

For my seminary students I’ve written a summary of what I expect in good paper-writing for my classes. It follows the classical order of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It also explains why the pursuit of excellence in thinking and communicating is not just an academic exercise, but is a crucial part of Christian character.

It’s a bit technical at points, but it’s worth a read to help you identify arguments and engage in discussions online or elsewhere.

(And before anyone asks, no, this is not directed at anyone in particular.)

Word-watch: lessons from a naïve blogger

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel

A few days ago I wrote a short article in which I used the word ‘submission.’ I’ve just now realized that by using this word, I was being a bit naïve. The realization of my own naivety came when I read Kara Martin’s helpful review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey on the Sydney Anglicans website. Kara’s review made me realize that what we Christians mean when we use the word ‘submission’ is often entirely different to what our non-Christian world thinks when it hears the word ‘submission.’ That’s because Christians and non-Christians are spending their time reading two very different books. As a result, Christians and non-Christians are having their passions and desires shaped by two very different worldviews. (more…)

Christmas Poetry

Life, Sola Panel

Thanks to the CASE team (CASE = Centre for Apologetic Scholarship & Education) at New College, I’ve enjoyed receiving their quarterly journal for the past few years. Each one has a theme, and they’ve had some real winners in the last two years, including on: (more…)

Speaking of miracles


Do miracles occur today? If we evangelicals express caution in response to a question like that, we’re either accused of being Cessationists or told that we lack real faith in the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever. (more…)

Watch your language

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel


I was recently reminded of my approaching middle age while teaching a Scripture class to a bunch of 12-year-olds. We were learning about the kings of Israel and Judah. At one point in the lesson, I told them that many of these kings were wicked, and therefore God’s judgement came upon Israel and Judah. My pronouncement was met with a set of puzzled stares. What was confusing about this seemingly straightforward statement?


Rightly handling the words

Everyday Ministry

Andrew Malone raises some pertinent questions about how we treat the words of congregational songs.

Song words used to be fixed in our hymnbooks or on overhead transparencies. If you wanted to modernize “Thou o’er death hast won” or paraphrase how God is “ineffably sublime”, you had to petition your denomination for a whole new publication. Today, everyone can publish whatever and whenever they like. We cut and paste lyrics into pew bulletins and, increasingly, into the latest data projection package.

With this shift into self-publishing, we seem to have decided that all lyrics are public domain. At least, where I come from, if you don’t like the theology of something, you simply change the offending word or phrase as easily as you might change its font or colour. We want to be a little bit Hillsong, but baulk at singing to “the darling of heaven”. We adore the popular triumphalism of ‘In Christ Alone’, but are hesitant to commend its theology that on the cross “Glory died”. We subtly cross the line from being a publisher to being a co-writer with the professionals.