A few years ago when I visited Cambodia with a team from church, I read Mike Higton’s excellent but demanding little book called ‘Difficult Gospel – the theology of Rowan Williams’. It really is full of profound insights and commentary and hightly recommended. I re-read a bit of it today (pg. 17-18) and share it here – wonderful stuff:
Continue reading “Held by Love”
“We are all of us precarious creatures. We live in environments we cannot control, and are hedged about by limits we cannot overcome. We face frustrations, we face competition for scarce resources, and we are jostled in a confined space by the egos of others
I recently finished reading the superb little book(let) by Leo Tolstoy called ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’, and had several really interesting moments of pause.
I may write more about the story, not least so that others who like short stories will pick it up and use their Christian imagination to think upon the issues raised.
About two thirds through, with Ivan dying, in his 40’s, following an accident putting up some fancy curtains in his posh house, and in apparent great unfathomable pain, we come to his inner thoughts about deception, what he called ‘The Lie’:Continue reading “Pity Me”
Normally, I just pop a short review on whatever websites when I’ve read a good book that should be widely read (in my view at least). Sometimes I write something about a book in more detail on this blog – normally theology or some such. ‘Cynical Theories – How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody’ is one of those books that although is not theology, is excellent at charting our cultural waters, and evaluating and assessing various trends over the decades and centuries.
Here’s a taster of what is proving to be a very important book. In articulating the morph from “original postmodern’ thought to the new Theorists, we read,Continue reading “Critical Theories Exposed”
I am just starting the audio version of the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and the Forward by Jordan Peterson is simply magnificent. Below is the video recording of Peterson reading his own Forward, but I would advise getting the book whether in print or as I have, audio – This is supremely important today in the Western world, as a neo-Marxist tyranny threatens everything and everyone once again. To quote Peterson on this point, “The hypothetically egalitarian, universalist doctrines of Karl Marx contained hidden within them sufficient hatred, resentment, envy and denial of individual culpability and responsibility to produce nothing but poison and death when manifested in the world.”
First, you defend your homeland against the Nazis, serving as a twice-decorated soldier on the Eastern front in the criminally ill-prepared Soviet Red Army. Then you’re arrested, humiliated, stripped of your military rank, charged under the auspices of the all-purpose Article 58 with the dissemination of “anti-Soviet propaganda”, and dragged off to Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. There, through the bars of your cell, you watch your beloved country celebrating its victory in the Great Patriotic War. Then you’re sentenced, in absentia, to eight years of hard labour (but you got away easy; it wasn’t so long afterwards that people in your position were awarded a “tenner” — and then a quarter of a century!). And fate isn’t finished with you yet — not by any means. You develop a deadly cancer in the camp, endure the exile imposed on you after your imprisonment ends, and pass very close to death.
Despite all this, you hold your head high. You refuse to turn against man or God, although you have every reason to do so. You write, instead, secretly, at night, documenting your terrible experiences. You craft a personal memoir — a single day in the labour camps — and, miracle of miracles! The clouds part! The sun shines through! Your book is published, and in your own country! It meets with unparalleled acclaim, nationally and internationally. But the sky darkens, once again, and the sun disappears. The repression returns. You become (once again) a “non-person”. The secret police — the dread KGB — seize the manuscript of your next book. It sees the light of day, nonetheless; but only in the West. There your reputation grows beyond the wildest of imaginings. The Nobel committee itself bestows upon you its highest literary honour.
The whole house shook as the package hit the floor with a resounding thud! In a few months I am teaching a module to undergraduates in Biblical Theology, and I could think of no better resource to add to my own notes and books from teaching in previous years, than this beautiful beast of a book by the great theologian Ben Witherington III. His 2019 published work is called, ‘BIBLICAL THEOLOGY – The Convergence of the Canon’ and rocks up at nearly 500 pages!!
“When we speak of the centrality of the Atonement, I have said, we mean much more, worlds more, than its place in a religious system. We are speaking of that which is the centre, not of thought, but of actual life, conscience, history and destiny. We speak of what is the life-power of the moral world and its historic crisis, the ground of the Church’s existence, and the sole meaning of Christ himself. Christ is to us just what His cross is. All that Christ was in heaven or on earth was put into what he did there. And all that man’s moral soul needs doing for it eternally was done centrally there.
Having just read G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, so much stood out as, frankly, pure genius. However, these few lines were among many that were just stunning, and I hope they inspire you to read this incredible journalistic and dare I say, playful, account of history, religion and the fact of Jesus of Nazareth….
“‘The first rational explanation of his life was that he never lived…
Then the idea that he was a divine being who did not exist gave place to the idea that he was a human being who did exist.
In my youth it was the fashion to say that he was merely an ethical teacher in the manner of the Essenes, who had apparently nothing much to say that Hillel or a hundred other Jews might not have said…
Then someone said that he was a madman with a Messianic delusion. Then others said that he was indeed an original teacher because he cared about nothing but Socialism; or (as others said) about nothing but Pacifism.
Then a more grimly scientific character appeared who said that Jesus would never have been heard of at all except for his prophecies of the end of the world… Among other variants on the same theme was the theory that he was a spiritual healer and nothing else…
There is another theory that concentrates entirely on the business of diabolism… as if Christ, like a young deacon taking his first orders, had got as far as exorcism and never got any further.
Now each of these explanations in itself seems to me singularly inadequate; but taken together they do suggest something of the very mystery which they miss.
There must surely have been something not only mysterious but many-sided about Christ if so many smaller Christs can be carved out of him…
It were better to rend our robes with a great cry against blasphemy… rather than to stand stupidly debating fine shades of pantheism in the presence of so catastrophic a claim… when a strolling carpenter’s apprentice said calmly and almost carelessly, like one looking over his shoulder: ‘Before Abraham was, I am.'”
I am reading John Henry Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which is to say, as intellectually stimulating as it is and as he is, this Anglican turned Catholic turned recently canonized Saint, is very demanding (thanks Tony)!!!
Anyway, I came across a poem he had read after following up on another thing, and came across a poem he wrote whilst sick and away from home. In the current Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe, we can easily feel overwhelmed and disorientated. But the language of the poem, though old fashioned does convey a truth about God’s providential care that we will do well to remember; namely that while we can never know the fullness of the How’s and the Why’s, we are nevertheless called to trust God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if not for the first time, then for the umpteenth time and in deeper, personal ways, daily.
Notice the lines in the first stanza: Keep Thou my feet; I do not see, The distant scene; one step enough for me!
This review in the Baptist Times of Helen Paynter‘s latest book is a comprehensive introduction for those new to the questions it explores; will bring new insights to those familiar with the subject:
Review by Peter King
Over the past few years I have become increasingly troubled by the violence in the Bible. Although this is a subject we don’t often talk about in our churches, I know from a number of informal conversations that many churchgoers (and others) have questions they would like to explore on these issues.