BOB: ‘Brilliantly Difficult’ documentary film OUT NOW

A great documentary charting the work of political cartoonist, and cultural interpreter extraordiaire Bob Moran, former cartoonist for the Telegraph, has been made available here. It is a truly inspiring account that has helped thousands (millions?) around the world especially during the past two and a half years.

Since this is a theology blog, it would be remiss of me to fail to point out that characters like BOB and his wonderful family are the type of people God raises up “for such a time as this” – and that their courage gives courage, just as in days of old.

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The Weird Sheep, the Scape Goat and the Carnival Clown (or Prophet)

The ‘weird sheep’ is a phrase I recently came across in a video interview with Bret & Heather Weinstein where they talked about the concept of the ‘weird sheep’, a theme they develop in their new book ‘A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life’. This intrigued me, because I’d not heard of the term before (at least not phrased exactly like that), yet the idea of it resonated. I had, however, heard of the ‘black sheep’. It’s likely we all know about this because we’ve all got one or two in the family. It could even be me, or you.

1. ‘Weird sheep’ was a great concept to think about. Every society needs those who do not fit the normative roles and expectations of polite society. They are the ones on the margins, those who say weird and wacky things, those who, when they are socially present, others raise a knowing eyebrow to each other, signalling that “we all know they are the odd one and we are the normal ones” = the normal ones who always think they know and see things clearly. But it is the weird one that will alert a complying, self-satisfied and generally happy to maintain the status-quo crowd that something is up, or wrong, or about to go down.

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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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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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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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Jurgen Moltmann on Complexity, Compromise and Concession in Society

Three years ago I published a post as I reflected on British politics in light of the Brexit phenomena; how words are a power-play and how extreme caution and wisdom is needed to avoid what it turns out, we have not avoided – a fractured country and an advanced political system that doesn’t know what to do.

As I write this, the UK is holding European elections, elections we never thought we’d have to partake, in light of the Brexit referendum.  I’m not interested in saying this or that about Brexit – good and true arguments can be made by both sides, but no-one is really listening to each other anymore, at least not in any substantive way.

What I am interested in, is not so much the specific thing that is a situational political event that our lives are living through, but a much wider fact of what it means to be a human being in a community/society like this:

I recently read these words of Jurgen Moltmann in his book ‘Man’ (p.96-97) where I was reminded that any human politics (Brexit included) form part of the much wider and deeper matrix and fabric of humanity:

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