My 500th Posting!!!! Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…

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500 posts, and yes, I’ll admit, they are a mixture of the good, the bad and the (very) ugly!  But for this milestone I thought I’d post something short and sweet.

BARTHIt is a comment made after preaching by the greatest Protestant theologian, Karl Barth.  I like this because it mocks reductionist simpleton Christianity with a very clever retort to a man at the door who had just listened to his sermon.  It is winsome and smart apologetics at its best:

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Theology Question: #5 ‘Why do Christians talk about being servants when it doesn’t seem very inspiring to do so?’

To my mind there is no way to conceive of God in a Christian sense without conceiving of ourselves as servants. ‘Even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

 

Since Kant, ‘individuals’ want ‘autonomy’, self-lordship. Since Nietzsche, we want this in a secular, humanistic sense. With the collapse of the biblical over-arching metanarrative, the modernist has to invent for themselves their own identities and eschatologies. This is exhausting, leading to nihilism – an absence of traditions and criteria upon which to build a concept of self or one’s purpose or telos, generating a sense of emptiness or option paralysis. Corporate self-interested bodies are more than happy to supply the needed content – product consumer-driven fashion-based notions of well-being and identity, herding people into homogenized norms of consumption upon which they then define themselves. Seeing this as freedom, people are really often slaves to multinationals and other powerful corporate bodies, and are perpetually weary and busy therein following the blue-prints of socially constructed virtual realities determined by peer-group pressure and media conditioning. Films like ‘The Joneses’ make this point well.

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Theology Questions: #4 Why are real relationship in the church so hard?

First, regarding the description of your stance within the church, then it is clear that you rightly wish to avoid the problem of polarized debates and “positions” whereby partisan factions develop that a priori reject one another’s points of view out of hand in the name of often unexamined interests and agendas that are often more political than doctrinal; in such scenarios, “right relating” typically degenerates into “clique relating” whereby opposing cliques “speak past” one another without listening to each other and where, in any case, a sophist rhetoric of false labelling of the other has replaced any “Roman rhetoric” that seeks a true appreciation of what the other is saying so that debate can be genuinely advanced. We could tabulate some contrasts here, as follows:

 

Right Relating (“Trinitarian” Relating) Distorted Relating (“Clique” Relating)
Authentic Intimacy of Shared Positives that Seeks to Include Outsiders in Community Counterfeit Intimacy of Shared Negatives that

Seeks to Exclude Outsiders from Community

Preserves Unity of the Spirit Degenerates Into Factions
Roman Rhetoric that Seeks Truth through Interrogation of Self and Others Sophist Rhetoric that Falsely But Cleverly Attacks Opposing Factions
True Redemptive Understanding of Others Inauthentic Defamatory Labelling of Others
Dissolves Acids of Suspicion/Hostility Creates Ever-Increasing Suspicion/Hostility
Genuine Expanding Dialogue Between Multiple Traditions with Genuine Listening Inauthentic Polarized “Debates” in Which

Opponents Shout-Over/Speak-Past Each Other

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Storm Centres of History: Parliament and Brexit

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause For Thought this week, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:   Storm-centres of history.

Today, on our final visit, we will go to the British Parliament.

On Wednesday 27th March this year, I attended PMQ’s with my father at the Houses of Parliament (with thanks to Torbay MP Kevin Foster and his team for arranging this)!

 

This date was significant.  This was the Wednesday before the Friday of the original departure from the EU.  It was very exciting to be there, which in the end, turned out to be not quite the bear pit I had anticipated.  

 

 

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Theology Questions: #3 What does it mean to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’?

Keeping in Step with the Spirit

In Galatians 5:13-26, Paul writes the following:

13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

According to Gordon D. Fee, a Pentecostal theologian, the command, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25), has to do with crucifying the “flesh” not by the law, but by the Holy Spirit. The particular indulgence of the flesh that Paul has in mind here is “becoming conceited, provoking and envying each other” (v. 26) or “biting and devouring each other” (v. 15), but Paul is clearly speaking against all “the acts of the flesh” (v. 19-21 cf. v. 24).

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A Twitter Commentary on every book of the Old Testament

In Tweets….

Old Testament

Genesis: Under numberless stars an old man stands amazed; his wife cries out in the pain of childbirth, laughing.

Exodus: Barefoot on the hot sand, he stares into the flame and haggles with a god whose name he cannot say.

Leviticus: At the mountain they wait in love and terror, while holy words pass through them like a sword.

Numbers: Count the murmuring tribes, count their slain, count the wandering long years.

Deuteronomy: I love you, I love you. Not because you are so good or great, but because you are so lost and little.

Joshua: In the walled city a prostitute undresses to the music of trumpets and the sound of many feet.Judges: As soothing as a therapist, she runs her fingers through his hair and says, “Now lie back and tell me everything.”

Ruth: He wakes in the night to find a woman, a foreigner, touching his feet. He rubs his eyes. He had been dreaming of kings.

1 Samuel: 
Grief + God = Samuel
Israel – Eli + Samuel = Monarchy
Monarchy – Saul = David
David – Jonathan = 0

2 Samuel: Victory! A riot of joy! The victor covers his face: O Absalom, my son, my son.

1 Kings: So, you really want a monarchy huh? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2 Kings: I told you so.

1 Chronicles: And behold, in those days all the begetting was done by the menfolk.

2 Chronicles: If we build it, he will come.

Ezra: When we saw the Temple we thought we must be dreaming, or that all our lives had been a dream from which we had awoken.

Nehemiah: When he read the scroll it was as if, after a long dementia, I remembered my name and wept to hear it spoken.

Esther: The orphan queen is glorious at her feast. In her glittering eyes are sex and armies.

Job: He scrapes himself with broken pots, cursing his mother’s womb. In the distance, Leviathan circles silently in the deep.

Psalms: The invention of antiphony: when my heart broke in two, I taught both parts to sing.

Proverbs: What a fabulous woman! I’ll marry her! (She left her fingerprints all over me.)

Ecclesiastes: Life is an empty sink. Someone has pulled the plug and all the meaning has drained out of it. So enjoy yourself!

Song of Songs: With the turtledove singing above them in the apple tree, the lovers took off their clothes and made beautiful poems together.

Isaiah: When the four corners of creation are picked up like a tablecloth, all the crumbs will slide into the middle, into Zion.

Jeremiah: The Word is at the bottom of the well, burning like a naked flame in the mouth of the weeping prophet.

Lamentations: A Bear Crouches. Destruction Envelops. Flee God’s Holy Implacable Judgement! Killed! Lament! Mourn Nakedly! O Pray!

Ezekiel: Four flashing creatures, four wheels rimmed with eyes, one scroll, one Spirit, one Temple, one million creeping bones.

Daniel: I pray (each day) towards the city of the Son of Man; to him all kings (all things) shall bend like grass in the wind.

Hosea: She has given birth. Another son! Tenderly her humiliated husband gathers the little prophecy into his arms.

Joel: Through the cracks in our broken hearts the grasshoppers have come swarming in.

Amos: Hallelujah! The Lord is here! Run for your lives!

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Theology Questions: #2 What is Prophecy?

  1. I have spent many years in the thinking of Anthony Thiselton, and so am very interested by his views, not least on prophecy (note the spelling here!). 
  2. The best place to look for Thiselton’s views on this subject, which I regard as authoritative, is in his large commentary on 1 Corinthians: see, Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to The Corinthians (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000). A good place to start is p. 829, which I quote in my book, Relating Faith (a free copy of which is yours on request).

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