Storm Centres of History: Cairo

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

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

Today, we will go to Cairo, Egypt.

Each place I’ve chosen will be a place I have been to, either as a tourist or a missionary.

Each place is self-evidently interesting for the paradigm-shifting upheaval, the change and new course for humanity that they set.

All of them speak about the great themes of our existence:  justice, truth, freedom, good and evil, etc. and the enduring ability of human beings, bearing the image of God, to experience and endure great trials.

I was a missionary living in Cairo between 2005-07.  I learnt a little Arabic, and slowly grew into the strange new world of Egyptian culture.

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Storm Centres of History: Geneva & Reformation

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

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

Today, we will go to Geneva.

Geneva is a beautiful city.  I don’t know if that was the case half a millennia ago, but back in the mid-16th century, it was a religious storm-centre that changed Europe and the world forever.

John Calvin (1509-64) was a shy, French intellectual; a 2nd generation Protestant Reformer. He was a lamb who would become a lion. 

This was about reforming what was deformed in Church and cultural life.

Calvin (the lamb) himself wanted to retire to a life of private study and theological writing.  He set out for Strasbourg but a French War diverted him to Geneva.

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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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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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The Holy Trinity (pt2)….

…..in Propositions!

1. The Trinity is not an optional doctrine, it is essential. God’s unity is not behind God’s threeness, God’s unity is in God’s threeness. This is not speculative mathematics, it is a descriptive theology of revelation.

2. The Trinity is not an academic doctrine thought up by clever scholars, rather it grew out of the Christian experience of worship, i.e. it expressed the early church’s pattern of prayer tothe Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.

3. The driving force of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity was Christological and soteriological, i.e. it served to articulate the Christian experience of salvation in Christ. The first Christians already knew God; through Jesus they came to know God as Jesus’ Father and Jesus as God’s Son; while in the Spirit Jesus continued to be present to them, forming a family of prayer to the Father and building a community of witness to Christ.

PROP

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The Holy Trinity (pt1)….

….in Tweets!
I.  HOW TO AVOID TRINITARIAN HERESY

#1. Start by abolishing Trinity Sunday, that fateful day on which preachers think they have to explain the Trinity

#2. Teach children to make the sign of the cross when they say the words “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”

#3. When someone offers to tell you the practical implications of the doctrine, just smile and move along

#4. Have you come up with a really helpful analogy of the trinity? Well done! Now please don’t tell anyone about it, ever

#5. The doctrine is not a mystery. It is simple & precise. The reality it points to is the mystery

#6. Don’t try to get rid of the biblical words. Don’t try to stick to them exclusively either

#7. In this doctrine every word is used in a very limited way. Even the numbers 1 and 3 can’t be taken literally

#8. Don’t partake in meaningless debates about whether “oneness” or “threeness” is more important (see #7)

II. TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY, EAST AND WEST

#9. Don’t worry about whether you prefer Augustine or the Greeks. You don’t have to pick a favourite, it’s not Masterchef.

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