Category Archives: Theology

Why is there suffering?

These notes are not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of what is a difficult and complex topic, but they lie behind the points that I made in the dialogue with Ian Hickingbotham at North Ringwood Uniting Church on 3rd April 2011.  They may help anyone interested in thinking further about this important issue. These notes can also be downloaded as a pdf file.

This is a world with tragic death, third world suffering and lingering, painful illness.  And so people ask questions like:

  1. Why do good, innocent people suffer? Why do bad things happen to good people?
  2. Why do the wicked prosper?
  3. What about accidental death and suffering?  Why does this happen to some and not others?
  4. Is this God’s judgment for sin?
  5. Is it persecution for being a Christian?
  6. Why doesn’t God prevent ‘natural’ disasters like tsunamis?

Well, the first thing to do is to remember that for every difficult and complex problem there is a simple solution………….. that is wrong!  The problem of evil and suffering is difficult and complex and no one ever said there had to be a single solution for all suffering. Trying to explain human accidents, perfectly natural events (like dying), natural disasters and deliberate suffering all with one simple explanation is probably impossible. Read More »

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Enhancing Christian Formation

On July 9 I gave an address at the Australian and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools conference at Trinity College, Melbourne. Part of it related to my paper “The Theology of Theological Education” but it was adapted for the situation.

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What Hope is there for Mission?

It was a privilege to recently give the Whitley College 2010 Annual Missiology Lecture. Whitley College, part of the University of Melbourne,  is the  Baptist training college in Melbourne. The lecture was subsequently published in the Australian Journal of Mission Studies. Vol. 4, No.2 (Dec 2010) 55-61.  The lecture begins with the material below, but the full text can also be downloaded here.


The humour of this kind of “end of the world” cartoon reminds us that there is a certain disdain for crazy preachers who proclaim the end of all things, but we ought to remember that Jesus came into Galilee as an end-time preacher, saying, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15). It might be good if the church was more willing to sound equally crazy in saying that the kingdom of God is a lot closer than many realize, and that we are nearly there at every moment of time!  The Celtic Christian tradition has a saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, and that in the “thin” places the distance is even less. This is a way of saying that there are times and places when it seems that the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and we are able to get a glimpse, a sense of the holy. Read More »

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The Future of the Church

by Brian Edgar

What is the future of faith? What future is there for the church? These were the matters discussed on the ABC’s Sunday Night Talk  (July 18) with Jon Cleary, myself, Andrew McGowan (Warden of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne) and Dr Margaret Beirne, a Catholic sister of Charity and senior lecturer in Biblical studies at St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox theological college.

You can read Jon’s comments and download the whole program as a podcast from the ABC site.

Before the program started I made some notes on what I thought. Note carefully, that these are only notes. But they might stimulate your own thought on the topic. Read More »

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The Trinity and life in God

By Brian Edgar

The Christian doctrine of God as Trinity is fundamentally simple, thoroughly practical, theologically central and totally biblical. It is not, as sometimes suggested, an abstract or philosophical construction with an unusual perspective on mathematics which makes three equal to one! Read More »

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Resurrection and discipleship

By Brian Edgar

Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus is the only one with a decisive ending. The gospel of John may have originally finished at the end of chapter 20,[1] the ending of Mark is uncertain[2] and Luke’s gospel finishes so it can move on to the sequel in the book of Acts. Matthew, however, chose to finish clearly and decisively and to leave his readers with the final words of the risen Lord Jesus ringing in their ears. Read More »

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Faith that works – studies in James

By Brian Edgar

Today, with rapid scientific, technological and cultural developments the ethical challenges we face mean we can find ourselves off the known ethical map and facing unknown dangers. And where will we find the right direction? Read More »

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Life after death – the intermediate state

By Brian Edgar

Marc Chagall - an angel takes Jesus

There are four connected ideas about death and resurrection which are widespread but wrong.

  • The first idea is that when a Christian dies they go into a disembodied form and wait for the time of the final resurrection (there are significant differences in opinion as to actually what happens during this ‘intermediate state’ – sleep? being in the presence of God? in purgatory?)
  • This concept requires the second idea, which is that the person is understood in a dualistic sense, composed of two parts which can be separated (although again, there are differences of opinion as to how this actually works: body and soul? body and spirit?).  This involves the idea that the ‘real person’ is found in the souls/spirit part and that the person in this form can exist quite independently of the body. Read More »
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The human person according to Paul

By Brian Edgar

What exactly is meant when there is talk of a person being made up of ‘body and soul’? Are there two parts to a person? Can they exist separately?  Does the soul live on after the death of the body?  Discussions of the Biblical understanding of the person inevitably lead to the question as to whether the person is best understood  as unified whole (monism)  or as a integrated dualism of body and soul/spirit. Read More »

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Intelligent Design in schools?

By Brian Edgar

There was, a little while ago, a very public debate about whether the teaching of Intelligent Design should be banned in Australian schools. There are strong advocates for doing this it and the suggestion inevitably produces tensions. The situation in Australia, however, is not as heated as in the USA, partly because the processes by which curricula are established are different, and this tends to reduce the level of tension. Nonetheless, it remains a controversial issue.

Unfortunately, I reckon there is, in Australia, a general lack of theological understanding about what intelligent design actually is and what it achieves Read More »

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Faith-sharing in professional practice

By Brian Edgar

How should Christians who are professionals – specifically, in this case, health professionals share their faith? Of course, being a pastor or theologian is a very different experience, so my words have to be assessed in that light although I did become personally familiar with these issues over some years in the so-called ‘secular’ workforce. Read More »

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Time for God: the stewardship of time

By Brian Edgar

We tend to take space and time for granted, as basic categories of human existence. They exist as the framework of the world in which we live and observing the detail, the form, the structure and the significance of such basic elements is not easy.

Usually they are the means by which we analyse objects which exist in space and events which occur in time, rather than being themselves entities and events to be investigated and examined. It is easier to comprehend the objects which exist in space than the space in which the objects exist and it is a more straight forward process to analyse the movement or the change which occurs to entities than to examine the time or duration through which that change occurs.

Yet it is, obviously, of the utmost significance that to be human is to exist in time and space and to be conditioned by those realities. Read More »

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Christians and homosexuality

By Brian Edgar

While evangelicals have a good reputation for holding to biblical truth – including the biblically expressed conviction that homosexual activity is sinful – they have not always had a good reputation for acting with grace towards those who differ.  Although the real situation Read More »

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Biblical justice

By Brian Edgar

‘My daughter has a keen sense of justice’ she said, as we watched the child and her friends dividing cake and lollies at a party. My unspoken response was that the girl was pretty much like every other child (and adult, for that matter) in that she showed a strong instinct for self-interest in making sure that she got her fair share! Self-interest is natural and not necessarily wrong but it is certainly not the same thing as biblical justice. Even secular notions of justice which go beyond the childish attitude that ‘justice’ is ‘just me’ and  define it in terms of fairness, equality and honesty still fall short of ‘biblical justice’. Read More »

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Sexuality and God

By Brian Edgar

It was a tough job: presenting an orthodox view on sexuality, and especially homosexuality, to a denominational committee which had been set up in such a way that a less-than-orthodox conclusion was almost a foregone conclusion (more on that later). Before dealing with homosexuality it was necessary to go back to basics and discuss theology – the nature of God Read More »

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