He Gave Them…..

A brief quote from a brilliant piece by Stanley Hauerwas a few years ago here:

Jesus was crucified because he embodied a politics that threatened all worldly regimes based on the fear of death. And so Easter has profound political consequences.

“Jesus was crucified because he embodied a politics that threatened all worldly regimes based on the fear of death. And so Easter has profound political consequences…

…He gave them a new way to deal with offenders – by forgiving them.

He gave them a new way to deal with violence – by suffering.

He gave them a new way to deal with money – by sharing it.

He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership – by drawing on the gift of every member, even the most humble.

He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society – by building a new order, not making the old.

He gave them a new pattern of relationships between man and woman, between parent and child, between master and slave, in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person.

He gave them a new attitude toward the state and toward the “enemy nation.”

Stanley Hauerwas is among the several great speakers at the 2018 BMS Catalyst Live day events in Bristol and Birmingham:

 

2018 CONTRIBUTORS

David Bebbington – Professor of History at Stirling University and Visiting Professor at Baylor University; creator of the ‘Bebbington quadrilateral’, his definition of evangelicalism

Baroness Elizabeth Berridge – Member of the House of Lords, with a wide range of interests including international freedom of religion and belief

Ron Choong – Theologian of science and biblical archaeologist; Founder and Executive Director of the Academy for Christian Thought in New York

Ruth Gledhill – Editor of ‘Christian Today’, author and commentator; previously religious affairs correspondent for The Times

Paula Gooder – Director for Mission Learning and Development in the Diocese of Birmingham; previously Theologian in Residence at the Bible Society

Rosie Harper – Vicar, Chair of the Oxford Nandyal Education Foundation, writer and activist on issues of justice and equality within and beyond the church.

Stanley Hauerwas – Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke Divinity School

Harry & Chris – Harry Baker is a world poetry slam champion, and his childhood friend Chris Read is a jazz musician; together, they are the wonderful Harry & Chris

Rula Khoury Mansour – Lecturer at Nazareth Evangelical College; specialist in conflict resolution

Amy Orr-Ewing – Director of Programmes for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics; Amy will be speaking on her doctoral research on the work of Dorothy L Sayers

Adrian Snell –  Musician; Adrian’s music is renowned worldwide, with albums including ‘Alpha and Omega’ and ‘Song of an Exile’. Adrian will be speaking on his amazing work as a music therapist, as well as playing live

Anne Wafula Strike MBE – Anne was the first wheelchair racer to represent Kenya, where she was born; she has since become a Paralympian with Team GB, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours and is an author and sporting ambassador

And finally, Catalyst Live 2018 is hosted by Mark Woods – consulting editor of the Methodist recorder, author, commentator and very good friend of BMS!

 

What Easter is and isn’t

What Easter is and isn’t

Three years ago (2015), the then Prime Minister wrote an article for Premier Christianity magazine, giving, as it were, his Easter message to the Christians of the UK.  This is definitely a step up from the “We don’t do God” politics of the Blair/Campbell era of the late 1990’s, and this in spite of the viscous rhetoric of the so-called “New Atheists,” particularly since the 9-11 attacks, Cameron’s willingness to advance a smarter politics by engaging the UK’s Christians.  That is to be commended, but.

I’m just suspicious of it all never-the-less.  At least the UK lad and ladette culture of rampantly secular and materialistic 1990’s meant that senior politicians would never get away with a nod to the UK’s diminishing religious groups.  It was open season on those silly people of faith.

However, what Cameron said was of a generally sufficient vagueness that might fool some of the people some of the time, but not me . . . three years after the event!

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The Crib and the Cry

The Crib and the Cry;

The animals in wonder.

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The Cross and the Why;

The people in blunder.

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Was this Jesus the Son of God?

As a baby surely not!

As a man, upon a cross, surely, no.

What would it look like if God came to earth;

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In disguise, as one of us?

Would we see it?

Would we know?

Of course we wouldn’t, so off we go.

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Doing our thing, without a thought;

Of the One who made us,

And saved us, our salvation bought.

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An eternal tormentist, annihilationist and universalist walk into a pub…

An eternal tormentist, annihilationist and universalist walk into a pub…

What follows is part of a wider response to various questions that theologian Rob Knowles has responded to.  Here, after writing a thorough response and critique of C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, to which the opening of the article below refers, Rob proceeds to outline the actual biblical view(s) of what is associated with biblical notions of judgment and hell.

This debate suffers from the worst kinds of crappy-Christian polemics, historical amnesia and hermeneutical foreclosure, and dare I say, the real possibility that many Christians are going to be really cheesed off if God does indeed save everyone! Similarly, if God does or will save everyone, would that constitute what my brother refers to as ‘a pleasant hostage situation’?

If someone of the scholarly stature of A. C. Thiselton can confidently and unashamedly assert that within the Bible there exists three contradictory traditions, the interpreting community that is the Church had best sit up and pay proper theological attention!  At the very least, this would make an interesting discussion actually worth listening too, if our three traditions named in my title ever got into that pub!

Anyway, enjoy.  Cheers….

gbbf-glass

How could hell be just?
I have already said a lot on this question in my earlier theodicy on “the problem of evil”. There I offered a highly modified version of C.S. Lewis’s theodicy in his book, The Problem of Pain (see above). The theodicy went into some detail on the question of hell, and broadly rejected C.S. Lewis’ thinking on the matter in favour of A.C. Thiselton’s view, which we might call the “deliberate ambiguity” approach to hell. Lewis’s theodicy, in my view, was at its strongest in describing how, given that God had decided to create “persons” with (at least some measure of free will), then this was impossible without (a) some kind of neutral background – creation or “nature”, and (b) the possibility of us deciding to do wrong. These two factors explained 80% of the suffering in the world: that is, when it comes to the question: “why is there so much suffering in the world?” our answer is – roughly speaking – about 80% in agreement with the atheists. They say: there is no God; there is suffering; so humankind must have caused the suffering. We 80% agree that humankind must have caused the suffering – with the qualification that demonic influence on humanity also has to be accounted for.


The main exception to this was (c) what Lewis referred to as remedial suffering – suffering associated with God’s disciplining intervention into our lives, and with our going “cold turkey” on sins once we had decided to follow God – a “cold turkey” experience that Lewis, rightly, likened to crucifixion, since Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the sinful nature in the Christian.


In my view, though, Lewis’s theodicy was at its weakest in its depiction of God as being less than able to fully resolve the problem of human sin – as though the Almighty God was threatened by sin, and could only partially guarantee a partial salvation that heavily depended on our co-operation and works. The effect was to leave the reader exhausted, thinking that his or her works could be the deciding factor in his or her salvation.
To my mind, this view, whilst rightly stressing human responsibility, fails to present the biblical picture of God’s sovereignty. Yes, God is the crucified God, who suffers with us in weakness. And, for God as a man in Jesus Christ, nobody can under-estimate the suffering of the cross, and the difficulty God faced at that point, given the parameters that he had placed upon himself.

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Communion: A Table Liturgy

Cross on Cliff“Whether Prince or pauper, commoner or King, wealthy or poor, foolish or wise, lost or found, young or old, man or woman, sinner or saint, Conservative or Labour, despairing or hopeful, healthy or unhealthy, rested or tired, faithful or unfaithful, hungry or full, grumpy or happy, doubting or sure, successful or failure:

Come to this Table.
The Table of Christ.
One Table, One Saviour, One Church, One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Do not come because you are perfect, but because you are not.
Do not come because you know everything, but because you don’t.
Do not come trying to earn God’s love, you can’t.
Do not come to impress others.
This Table of Christ is a Table for sinners.
There is room for everyone.
This Table of Christ speaks of a sacrifice for sinners.

The invitation is to all who are near and all who are far off.
The invitation is for all who believe and who want to believe.
The invitation is to share in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The invitation is to show God’s willingness to draw you near to Himself.

A God so near: Take and Eat.
A God so near: Drink this, all of you.
As He was crushed for our sins;
So we crush the bread between our teeth.
As He was lifted up;
So we lift up the cup.

The Cross of salvation; the Blood of the New Covenant; A broken body – Jesus the Son of God slain. For all sin everywhere.

And as you eat and drink physically, so eat and drink spiritually.
This physical act, sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is a profoundly spiritual act of the heart.

It doesn’t depend on feelings or mood, but on Christ who says come.
Take Mary’s advice and “Do what He says!”
It depends on a rolled away stone, an empty tomb, a Risen Saviour.

So come.
Here it is.
The gracious offer of God to forgive and redeem.
The gifts of God to the world.
The power of God for salvation.
Body, blood, cross.
Bread, wine, table.
One God, One salvation, One Cross, One Saviour, One Way, One Church.
Amen.

Communion

Christian Community

LifeTogetherRe-reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I have been re-staggered by his sheer realism of Kingdom perspective.  Bonhoeffer is no religious hack mass producing religious visions of a utopian ideal – an ideal that only serves to wear thin before wearing out the Christian community.

“Innumerable times a whole Christian Community has been shattered because it has lived on the basis of a wishful image.”

Of course, he admits there are those who come in among the community with a definite image of what it should look like and what it should be, and lo and behold, they often have the plans to enable the community to get there!

“But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams.  A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community.  By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks and abandon ourselves to those blissful experiences and exalted moods that sweep over us like a wave of rapture.  For God is not a God of emotionalism, but the God of truth.”

The point is quite wonderful.  The genuine Christian community is one that sees, identifies, experiences all the garbage that goes with its own manufactured dreams and visions; its own “great disillusionments.”  The community that clings to man-made visions (even if they are wrapped up in religious language and presented with biblical texts), fails to recognise this inherent idolatry.  Such a community, or church, may look and sound like a religious gathering, may even be great at social action, and evangelism, but the die is cast:  “Sooner or later it is bound to collapse.”

“Every human idealised image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that the genuine community can survive.  Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself, become destroyers of that Christian community even though their intentions may be ever so honest, ernest, and sacrificial.”

n-BONHOEFFER-large570This is liberating news, it is good news.  The Church is not to succumb to man-made idolatries, nor is she to succumb to fads and gimmicks, visions and utopias that smooth out the necessity and urgency of being the Community of the Christian Church.  God will not be mocked!

“The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.”

Dreamy visions are an idolatrous plague on the Church, especially in the management controlled, targets obsessed West, because they become a means of assessment and measurement.  That is why we often count success in numbers attending, or by the state of the bank balance.  We are conditioned this way, and so we take it into church, devise plans and strategies, and so lose the heart beat of the Christian community.  Bonhoeffer reminds us, the Christian community is not measured by trendy techniques ripped from a secular world, but by the continuing, nurturing, profoundly simple act of thankfulness.

We cannot engineer the Kingdom of God among us.  Pity the fool who tries.  But what we can do is grow into the community by practise and communion.  We are all bent on a self-centred, self-serving, self-focused love.  It is precisely why we need saving.  But when we bring this into the community, unchecked by the Word of God, we masquerade as angels of light among our brothers and sisters, when in Kingdom reality, we are shadowy fools neither under-standing nor standing-under the Word of Christ.

“Christian community is not an ideal we have to realise, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate….In other words, a life together under the Word will stay healthy only when it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis (Association of Piety), but instead, understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, universal, Christian Church, sharing through its deeds and suffering in the hardships and struggles and promise of the whole church.”

Bonhoeffer

“We hold fast in faith to God’s greatest gift, that God has acted for us all and wants to act for us all.  This makes us joyful and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences if at times God does not grant them.  We are bound together by faith, not by experience.”

 

Christ and the World

This is stunning…..

Subversive Preaching in a Postmodern World – A Targum based on Colossians 1:15-20 by Brian J Walsh

In an image-saturated world,

a world of ubiquitous corporate logos

permeating your consciousness,

a world of dehydrated and captive imaginations

in which we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted,

to be able to dream of life otherwise.

A world in which the empire of global economic affluence

has achieved the monopoloy of our imaginations;

in this world,

Christ is the image of the invisible God.

In this world,

driven by images with a vengeance,

Christ is the image par excellence;

the image above all other images,

the image that is not a facade,

the image that is not trying to sell you anything,

the image that refuses to co-opt you.

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