The Donkey

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.
 *
With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.
 *
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.
 *
Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.
By the genius that is G. K. Chesterton, from The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton, 1927

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X marks the spot

X marks the spot

Having had the best part of the weekend in Oxford (Baptist Union Assembly), I must say what an inspiring place it is.  I’m sure the sun shining was a major factor, not to mention  the incredible falafal wraps I enjoyed, with a decent pint at the famous pub favoured by C. S. Lewis and the Inklings.

pub

C. S. Lewis was ‘ere.

I wandered around the oldest University in the world, Balliol College (£2 entry fee!), established in the 13th century, and counts among its past students Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, and in 1360 AD John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English – a dangerous thing to do.

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John Wycliffe, c. 1360

 

The main entrance to the college is on Broad Street, and it was here that a terrible event took place in both 1555 and 1556.  This cross marks the spot where three Reformers were burnt at the stake for their part in the Reformation, accused of “heresy”, i.e. Protestantism.

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Martyr’s Cross, Broad Street, Oxford

Hugh Latimer (Bishop of Worcester); Nicolas Ridley (Bishop of London); and Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury), were burned alive on this spot.  To the left is Balliol College, and to the right are some shops, including outside seating areas for the coffee drinkers.  It is an incredible thing to see and think about.  This sign to the left of the cross describes the scene:

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Take Me To Church

My youngest son (17) brought me a CD for my birthday recently (a minor miracle in its own right), and was very interested to know my thoughts on the song ‘Take Me To Church’ by Andrew Hozier (aka Hozier).

I was very impressed with the CD overall, the thoughful lyrics and quality of music (I am a 44 year old with a broad range!).  But my ordained antenna (a self-depricating allusion) were alert to my son’s interest in my thoughts (a first since he was 12)!

I will admit to enjoying the ‘funky groove’ of the tune (does that make me sound like a doofus?)!  Though I must confess I needed help with the ‘hermeneutics’ of the song.  And confession is a big deal.  I needed help to interpret the phrase meanings and word meanings and big picture meanings.  It was like trying to interpet the Bible – I needed some background info!

I came across a really great post here by Angela Denker on REDLETTERCHRISTIANS.ORG (not sure why they shout that), and then I found an actual interview with the talented man himself here.

First the song that came to me as a gift from my teenage son (suspicious in its own right), then the blog post by Denker, suberbly written, on a very popular Christian website have made me think:  If Calvin wouldn’t approve of all Calvinists (and he wouldn’t!), why on earth (or Heaven) would Jesus ‘approve’ (this term needs more work but please indulge me) of all Christians?

In fact, Jesus’ approval of all Christians is not even the point.  As a Protestant protestant (Baptist), and a human being in general, it is totally right that Hozier feels this rage – for heaven’s sake, I do.  Catholic abuses of children (and anything else for that matter) are a foul satanically fueled outrage of the holiest order!   GOD IS OUTRAGED!!!

Hozier’s Irish Catholic background is the fertile soil for his rage, a rage incidentaly, that could have been a hell of a lot worse.  In the ‘actual interview’ he impressed with his genuine desire to be sensitive. Here you will find no ‘anti-Christian Dawkins rage’ (which isn’t even that scary anyway), but a thoughful, hurting, talented, God-imaged young man.

We reap what we sow!  A Catholic doctrine of celebacy is more unnatural than any ‘sin’ the Mother Church try to denounce!

I am a man, a Christian, (yes! Born-again, if you can get over the ‘Americanist’ hullabaloo that this phrase conjurs up), a British citizen, a heterosexual (OMGosh – it’s not illegal you know), a son, a brother, a husband, a (grand)father, a redeemed follower of Jesus!  My salvation is not determined by any of these: my nationality, my sexuality, my progenity, my ‘whatever’! I am saved from my ontological state of sin, my alienation from God, my ‘natural’ bent away from the rightness of righteousness, and the wholeness of holiness.  I have been rescued from ‘Adamic-apple-loving’ to being grafted in to the Christ-vine.

I am saved (and I tell you all, I know I am saved) because I believe what Jesus said.  Jesus has saved me.  The only institution I answer to or respond to or yield to is the Kingdom of God.  Why?  Not because I’m holier-than-thou (an evening in the pub with me will convince you I’m not), but because a sin-drenched humanity is so in desperate need of Christ and His grace that I will put all my puny sin-eggs into His great magnificent salvation-basket.

So Andrew Hozier, thank you.  I don’t know whether you believe in Jesus as He is, not as we think He is, but your song is a greater prayer than many prayers I’ve heard.

And Jesus Christ Himself knows that.  And He hears you.  He hears us.  All.  He hears your ‘Amen’.  And I am convinced he says ‘Amen’ to your ‘Amen’.

“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”  Romans 11:32

All.  Amen.

 

Hozier’s Song on YOUTUBE.

Lyrics to ‘Take Me To Church’ here.

hozier

 

Easter Day Baptism, Naughty Kids and Motherwell FC

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Romans 6:3-4

In baptism, we experience and partake in something extraordinary.
It is the belief and practise of a Church to baptise, to dunk, to plunge people into water, whilst promises are made.
Extraordinary yes! Weird? Certainly.
What makes rational adults choose to do such a brazenly embarrassing thing? In front of their friends and family too! In front of witnesses!

Not only is Easter Day the high point of the Christian calendar, but Baptism is the high point of human experience.
It is no accident that without water there can be no life.
It is not a qwerk of creation that water is the key to life.
It is not by accident that Jesus links Himself with Living Water (Jn 7:24).

So what does this all mean? We have all heard of baptism before, some have been done themselves; some have seen many baptisms and others have only seen and heard what the TV or the papers have said.

Christianity is about water; It is about Baptism. Most of our lives we try to order and control ourselves. We try to look good, stay dry; as our English proverb goes, we try to ‘keep our heads above water.’

BaptismThis wonderful painting is by Christina Ramos over at christinaramosart.com

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Moltmann and the Annihilation of Hell

Jurgen Moltmann in his foreward of Nicholas Ansell’s The Annihilation of Hell – Universal Salvation and the Redemption of Time in the Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann:

20150213_200619“A foreward is not an afterward and also not a critical review.  A foreward should open the door and point out the worth of a book so that it can be properly read and discussed.  Nicholas Ansell’s book on The Annihilation of Hell and Universal Salvation is so far-reaching and profound a theological and philosophical work that a brief foreward can’t really do it justice.  I’ll limit myself here to some biographical references, a few factual observations, and then an attempt to bring the theology of grace and the theology of faith into a theological dialogue.

Any theology of grace will be oriented for God’s sake to the universal triumph of grace.  Any theology of faith, however, will start from the human decision of faith and will result in the separation of believers from unbelievers.  The universalism of salvation, on the one hand, and the particularism of faith on the other hand, are on two different levels.  What is important is to closely connect them.

Since my theology studies in Gottingen, where I wrote my dissertation in 1952 on the “hypothetical universalism” of the Calvinist theologian Moyse Amyraut, who taught at the theological Academy of Saumer in the 17th century, the idea of universalism has not let go of me.  Amyraut’s idea, that the universal offer of grace is merely hypothetical until faith grasps it, I considered inadequate.  Then I read Karl Barth’s new doctrine of election which appeared in his Church Dogmatics 2/2 and became convinced by his theology of the cross:  On the cross of Christ, God took the guilt of sinners upon himself in order to give them his gift of grace.  I continued to think through this dialectical universalism of salvation and found in Christ’s resurrection from the dead the beginning of the destruction of death and thereby “the annihilation of Hell.”  Many Easter hymns in the German Lutheran hymnal celebrate the “destruction of Hell” by means of Christ’s descent into Hell and resurrection from Hell.  In the Orthodox Easter liturgy, the destruction of Hell through Christ is also celebrated.  Those who descend into Hell should “abandon all hope” according to Dante.  But the Christ who descended into Hell is the “hope of the hopeless” (spes desperatis).

I then took up an old desire of Karl Barth and Helmut Gollwitzer, namely to reform the doctrine of the LAst Judgment from the perspective of the crucified one who will come to judge the living and the dead.  Here I had the Old Testament notion of “divine judging” for help.  According to Psalm 96, God will come to judge the earth, and the earth will rejoice and the fields will make merry.  In this instance, “judge” means raise up, set straight, heal, and bring to life.  How could it be otherwise in the Christian anticipation of God’s Final Judgment and coming kingdom!  In fact the so-called “Final Judgment” is penultimate; what is truly final is the new, eternal creation in which God becomes “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

At this point another thought came to me:  with the forgiveness of sins and the overcoming of death, God is concerned primarily with the expulsion of the godless powers of evil, of sin, of death, and of Hell from his beloved creation.  Isn’t our question as to whether all or only a few will be saved not an anthropocentric and in many cases even a selfish one?  For God, it is about God’s glorification of all his creatures.  The salvation of the new humanity is only a part of this.  If we look to the glory of God, then the universalism and particularism of human salvation are relativised.  The “annihilation of Hell” is an action of the cosmic Christ, whose reign is universal.  “Universal salvation” is only the human part of the “salvation of the universe.”

I must stop here, since I’m only writing a forward.  But you can see how stimulating this study by Nicholas Ansell has been for me.  I hope the same holds true for his other readers.  There is much to be gained by considering this work and then thinking further on one’s own.”

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Fruitful Vision

Paul claims he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).

Not to be disobedient is to be deliberately obedient; intentionally faithful; God-wardly focused.  Paul clearly could have been disobedient, and that’s the point.  Other things could have crowded in, worthwhile things, ministry and Gospel things even, but he had to be obedient to (not his) but the heavenly vision, a heavenly vision given by Heaven’s King.

IMG_6748I don’t read much Oswald Chambers, but a generous lady at church gave me his complete works – nice.

I randomly opened a page and read this:

“If we lose the vision, we alone are responsible, and the way we lose the vision is spiritual leakage…”

He continues along these lines and then writes,

“Though it tarry, wait for it….We get so practical that we forget the vision.  At the beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it; we rushed off into practical work, and when the vision was fulfilled, we did not see it.  Waiting for the vision that tarries is the test of our loyalty to God.  It is at the peril of our soul’s welfare that we get caught up in practical work and miss the fulfilment of the vision.”

An objection might be raised here about the necessity of doing “practical work,” but without careful, biblical infused thought, the point would be missed.  God’s vision is not anti-practical work per se, but He is against us when we lack the spiritual fortitude of being in Christ and enjoying salvation’s benefits and goals by attending to matters that we find “practical”, Forsyth’s “the sin of bustle.”  This is a heretical bastardisation of the Christian faith, and a chief enemy of the believer. 

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