• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service [except for the second Saturday of every month when the service starts at 6:30 pm and is followed by a shared meal]. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (Pastor Jeff Whittaker).

    Sunday 11:30 am for our Chinese (Mandarin) language service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

  • Contact details…

    Physical and postal address:
    4 Inverary Avenue,
    Epsom,
    Auckland 1023,
    NEW ZEALAND.

    Email:
    epsombaptist@clear.net.nz

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurer: Ann Guan

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

    Church Deacons: Anne Bartley, Ian de Stigter, Kristy Choi, Helen Evans, Willa Hui, and Alfred Zhou.

‘Signs’ in the gospel of John…

One of the distinctive features of the gospel of John is some series of sevens: for example the seven I AM sayings, and the seven ‘signs’ that Jesus performs. The signs are miracles that Jesus performs, and the surrounding text often includes a statement to the effect that the signs lead to belief in Jesus. So, when Jesus turns water into wine (John 2: 1 – 12), the reaction is (verse 11); his disciples believed in him. When Jesus clears the temple (John 2: 13ff), his right to undertake such an action is challenged by the Jewish leaders who demand: What sign can you show us for doing this? It seems that ‘signs’ were an accepted way of validating one’s right to perform certain (controversial?) actions. In our day, ‘signs’ are expected to persuade people of the truth claims of Christianity, or at least of certain Christian doctrines held by those claiming responsibility for the performance of the signs. I often get the impression that those who expect signs to function in this way think that the whole thing is quite straightforward, but end up puzzled as to why witnesses to amazing events don’t all respond with ignited faith.

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This is all very well. But we need to take a step back and ask: What is actually signified by various signs? To what do they point? There is considerable ambiguity here, and I want to explore some of that by quoting from Alister McGrath’s book ‘The Intellectual World of C.S. Lewis,’ in particular the chapter entitled ‘Lewis’s Argument from Desire’ (p.114).

A core theme of Lewis’s “argument from desire” is that nature cannot, and is not meant to, satisfy our deepest desires. Nature is a sign of something beyond itself, not a self-signifying and self-referential closed system. Things within nature – what we see outside ourselves or experience within ourselves – point beyond themselves to “that indescribable thing of which they become for a moment the messengers.”

            Lewis’s semiology of inexpressibility hints at the liminality of such experiences, while at the same time emphasizes the risk of confusing the sign with the thing signified. Like Augustine before him, Lewis holds that we must know the thing that is signified before we can understand the sign itself. Signs prove nothing. They do not – and cannot – function as the premises of a deductive argument. The realization of the resonance between signum and significatum rests on a prior knowledge of the significatum, and the retrospective realization of the semiotic congruence with the signum.

And so, to what do the seven signs in John’s gospel point? Do they point to the incarnation, to Jesus’ self-description as ‘one sent from the Father’? Or do they point to a political entity that we call the kingdom of God? (Is this why the Jewish leaders are described in John 11: 47f as being concerned with the impact of the signs being performed by Jesus?)  I think the interaction of sign and belief is complex, and by no means obvious. (In much of John’s gospel Jesus argues precisely with those who have put their faith in him, as if they really don’t get what he is about either.) Signs: They point beyond themselves to something else, something other. What ‘signs’ have you experienced lately?

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