Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Way of the Master?

There are a whole load of reasons why I can't stand this video, 3 of them being:
1. Their understanding of who God is
2. Their theological blunder of making 'the law' more powerful than God and thus 'the law' becoming 'god' in their sight (and this is a common problem in evangelical Christianity which is one of the reasons why Penal Substitution is so flawed).
3. Their approach to evangelism

I was trying to figure out what else concerned me about this video, and then I realised it was their understanding of the 10 Commandments.

They understand them in a very 'black and white' manner. So you break one of the commandments and are therefore guilty in God's sight and so need to be punished because of that guilt. But this understanding of the 10 Commandments (aside from all the problems of the above theology) is so flawed and limited. Let's look at what the 10 Commandments are:

And God spoke all these words:

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

"You shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour." Exodus 20:1-17

I'm not going to go through each one but they are not as black and white as we would like them to be. Think about 'You shall not murder'. What about ectopic pregnancy? If you do not remove the embryo growing in the fallopian tube then the mother could well die of bleeding. Removing the embryo is basically abortion. But if you don't do it, are you not killing the mother? So this commandment is not so black and white.

Think about 'You shall not steal'. Who's actually guilty of stealing when a young orphan starving child steals a loaf of bread to feed his baby brother or sister? Is not the West for putting him in this situation? He is not guilty. How do you think God sees him?

Now with the commandments 'Do not commit adultery' and 'you shall have no other gods before me' I believe they are 'black and white' (unless people have another take on them?).

So often I hear people talking in such black and white language, like this video, but it really isn't that easy and clear. And it frustrates me because I sometimes think people don't live in the real world and don't consider the complexity of human life and graciousness of God.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Hell In a Hand Basket - Quite Brilliant

HELL IN A HAND BASKET from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Piss Christ

I discovered this picture on Tim's blog with a beautiful poem that he has written.

I'd never heard of this picture before, but you can read all about it here. It's a photograph done in 1987 by the artist Andres Serrano.

It caused a lot of controversy when it was released, but Sister Wendy Beckett stated that it is 'what we have done to Christ'.

I find it an extremely powerful image. What do you think?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Interesting Conversations

I went to the pub this afternoon to visit a couple of friends who had organised a Mersea Reunion (see here) and while I was down there a guy on a table called me over to ask what the reunion was all about. As I explained about it another guy asked if I worked at The Company Shed. I told him that was my twin bro and that I used to work for my Dad as an oyster fisherman but didn't do it any more. He then asked me what I did now so I told him that I was training to be a Rev.

He then said to me;
'So is your church a Spirit filled church?'
Which took me back a little as I wasn't expecting a question like that at all! So I said yes.
'Are you born-again?'
I said yes
'Are you a follower of Jesus then?'
I said I was unashamedly a follower of Jesus.
I then asked him what his background was because he was using language that pointed to some kind of church background.

He went on to tell me that he was a traveller and that most of his community were born again Christians. He said that he believed in Jesus but had drifted away from 'obeying the Word of God'. He spoke about how it annoys him when people call themselves Christians but don't act like it.

The other guy then spoke about how he had done the Alpha course while he was in prison. I asked him if he believed in God and he shared he views and that he supposed he did believe in God but wasn't sure who God was.

They then asked me how I came to be doing what I'm doing, so I shared briefly my own story of faith.

It was a great conversation. What I loved about it was that it was in the middle of a pub garden completely out of the blue, but very natural. We were all really willing to share our own faith and beliefs. Also helped me understand better a travellers viewpoint on things. I have heard so many people moan and complain about travellers, but today I met a guy who I really warmed to. Also got me thinking about where Jesus would be and who he would be eating a drinking with.

It's also Regatta weekend on Mersea, so I think Jesus would've been on the Greasy Pole!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Now this is a wedding entrance!

I wonder if anyone will ask me if they can do this for their wedding?! I'd love it!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Interpret John 3

Following on from a recent thread I thought I would explore further biblical interpretation.

So, below is a passage from John's Gospel. It would be really interesting (for me at least) to see how people interpret it. If you've got the time and energy, then leave a comment explaining your understanding and interpretation of this passage. It (hopefully) will highlight the various traditions of biblical interpretations.

John 3:1-8 (NIV)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Revelations - How Do You Know God Exists?

'Leading figures in the five principal faiths in Britain discuss their beliefs and answer questions about their basic faith and their own spiritual journeys.'

I watched this on 4oD and found it to be very engaging.

I thought all those who were interviewed for it spoke very well.  I think Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is wonderful and engaging man.  I really liked Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, although when asked about the question of birth control in light of the AIDS epidemic in Kenya, he stumbled.  I have a deep respect for Rowan Williams and again thoroughly enjoyed listening to him speak.  Tariq Ramadan spoke well too and I was deeply struck by Sadu Paramtattvadas' description of heaven.

The end of the programme was deeply moving and highlighted for me the complexity of humanity and faith and how some situations in life have no answers.  Sometimes our worked out theory means nothing when faced with the reality of human suffering.  Sometimes the only thing we can do is walk with people through their suffering.  But then surly this is what the Incarnation is all about...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Britain's Top 50 Summer Restaurants

The Company Shed (my Mum's Restaurant) was selected as one of the top 50 restaurants to eat in Britain by The Telegraph!  Quite an achievement.  Rick Steins place is on there as well as Heston Blumenthal.  

What I love about this is that if anyone knows my mum they know that she has never set out to make The Company Shed a famous restaurant, she simply did what she had to do when my Dad's business went under.  She just wanted to provide for her family so she sold prawns and cockles out of the front window of a shack on the sea-front that my dad had brought a couple of years earlier.  It seemed to grow from there into a thriving place to eat seafood. It's a great little place to eat with a great atmosphere.

If you ever go to The Company Shed you will be treated the way you would be if you went into my mum's home!  My mum is very down to earth and tells you what she thinks, no hold's barred!  My mum is an amazing women.

I blinked and missed it!

Friday, 14 August 2009

I Took A Cat To Holland

Biblical interpretation....

I am always weary of anyone who claims to KNOW what the Bible is saying over any particular issue.  When people or groups claim ultimate biblical knowledge and understanding I am always troubled.  How can we ever truly KNOW what Scripture is saying?  We can BELIEVE what Scripture is saying and have a level of confidence in that interpretation, but ultimate knowledge can never be assumed.  Here's a good analogy:

'I took a cat to Holland'.  
Now if I wrote that in a letter, what would I mean?  It can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

1. I took a feline to the Netherlands
2. I took a catamaran to the Netherlands
3. I took a Jaguar car to Holland-On-Sea
4. I took a catalytic converter to Holland

...and I'm sure the list could continue.

The thing with Scripture is that none of us can be sure of each authors primary meaning and context.  We can make very educated guesses, but absolute certainty can never be ours.

That is why Scripture as a blueprint can never be helpful or even attainable.  Scripture is there to reveal to us something of who God is and guide and lead us in our ethics and practice in the world we live in today.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bread of Heaven!

I love this.

I wonder how many hymns and songs there are that you could walk into a public arena and start singing and know that the majority of people there would continue the song for you?
I'm going to try it!  What song shall I try it with?  Where shall I go and do it?  Seriously, I'll give it a go. ;0)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Human's Are Wicked...( wicked, skill, skill ;0D )

From a previous post a discussion has resulted about human nature and sin, so I want to try and clarify where I stand in all of this.  My thoughts have been aided and helped by 'Promise and Presence'.

'We are more wicked than we feared' or the doctrine of 'Total Depravity' assumes that humanity is basically evil.  In my previous post I spoke of my struggle with this belief.  I'm going to try and expand where I'm coming from.

Much of (evangelical?) Christianity understands humanity in relation to Adam's sin.  So Adam's sin and its consequences define my life and the life of every human being.  Yet this is the wrong place to start. 

This is secondary rather than primary.  Sin is a distortion  or disorientation of our human nature, yet we are not defined in this way (think of sin as disorientation like this:  humanity was on a journey to a place of total fulfilment, yet we got lost and confused and journeyed in completely the wrong direction leading to a place of wilderness).  

The place to start in defining who we are is not even with the pre-fallen Adam created 'good' in the image of God.  The place to start in defining who we are is with the resurrected and ascended Christ.  Jesus did not become human as previously defined by Adam; Adam was created in the image of the humanity that Jesus would take.  

So in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus our original destiny and identity is defined.  And at the Cross of Jesus the disorientation and distortion of our original destiny and identity is seen 'in all its unspeakable horror' (Colwell, Promise and Presence p 199).

So the humanity of Jesus reveals and defines our own humanity.  Sin is 'unnatural' to human nature. What is 'natural' to human nature is expressed and seen and defined by Christ's human nature.  It is to be in relationship with God.  It is to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  

Sin is a corruption of human nature.
It corrupts our relationship with God.
It corrupts our relationship with one another.
It corrupts our decisions.
It corrupts society.

Yet it does not mean we are totally wicked; it is that there is not one aspect in all of creation that is not fundamentally disorientated because of sin.

Sin is not about stuff we have done which we shouldn't have done.  Sin is that we have not loved God with all that we are and means there is a total distortion of human nature.  We are 'sin-sick' (Stanley Hauerwas coined this phrase).

And because of this Christian understanding of 'salvation' falls short when it focuses purely on forgiveness of sins and 'going to heaven'.  Salvation is about that distortion and disorientation that sin has caused being completely healed and restored.
It's about all of creation being reoriented back to God, about journeying towards God and his goodness and enjoying God for all of eternity.
It's about humanity being healed from its 'sin-sickness' and the whole of life reflecting that.

So we are defined by Jesus, created to reflect him in all that we are.  Anything contrary to that is 'unnatural'.

P.S.  I think it's important to grapple with and understand what we believe about God.  Jesus said we should love God will all our heart, soul, MIND and strength.  I believe that the way we live our lives reflect what we believe about God.  So it's good to understand what we actually believe.  

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

What's Your Vision?

Has your church, business, social club or whatever got a vision?

I think I'm sick and tired of hearing about 'visions'.  I don't mean in the Isaiah and Ezekiel tradition, I mean in the 'what is our vision, where are we going?' tradition.

I preached the other week about how I'm sick and tired of churches talking about having a vision.  It doesn't get us anywhere.

The last thing the Christian church in the West needs is another vision.  Look at all the strategies and visions the church has had over the last 20 years and look where it's got us...nowhere.  Decline continues to happen.

Some may cry out 'but we've got a vision and we're growing' to which I would reply 'Great!  But is your growth mainly new Christians or people swapping churches?'.

I've been quoted a million times Proverbs 29:18 saying that the people without a vision perish. The thing is, that verse is talking about a revelation of God and following him.

I think that when a church has a vision Jesus becomes neglected.
I think when a church has a vision it turns people into numbers.
I think when a church has a vision it turns people into a resource.
I think that when a church has a vision it turns love into a product for sale.
I think that when a church has a vision it turns the Kingdom of God into the kingdoms of this world.

I think that when a church has a vision it changes from seeking to be a community that reflects the love of God to becoming a business that is more concerned with money and 'results' than about loving God and loving our neighbour.
I think that when a church has a vision it creates disunity and dissatisfaction because the vision is never realised.

I think that when a church has a vision it is in danger of departing from its God given calling.

Iran and Apostasy

On Saturday August 8, Maryam and Marzieh were summoned to appear in court on Sunday August 9 in order to hear a verdict on their case. The chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of ‘apostasy.’ However, when they arrived, no verdict was actually given. Instead, the court session focussed on the deputy prosecutor, Mr Haddad, questioning Maryam and Marzieh about their faith and telling them that they had to recant in both verbal and written form. This made it clear that in the eyes of the court, Maryam and Marzieh’s only crime is that they have converted to Christianity.

Mr. Haddad, asked the two women if they were Christians. “We love Jesus,” they replied. He repeated his question and they said, “Yes, we are Christians.”

Mr. Haddad then said, “You were Muslims and now you have become Christians.”

“We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims,” was their reply.

Mr. Haddad’s questioning continued and he asked them if they regretted becoming Christians, to which they replied, “We have no regrets.”

Then he stated emphatically, “You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form.” They stood firm and replied, “We will not deny our faith.”

During one tense moment in the questioning, Maryam and Marzieh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit. Mr. Haddad told them, “It is impossible for God to speak with humans.”

Marzieh asked him in return, “Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?”

Mr. Haddad then replied, “You are not worthy for God to speak to you.”

Marzieh said, “It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.”

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Bible as blueprint?

'My early years as a Christian were marked by the unquestioned assumption that Scripture's authority was that of a book of rules and that, therefore, the Bible offered a sufficient and comprehensive blueprint for the Church and its ministry...The Bible is not a Hayne's Manual...and comparison with any work intended as a blueprint will quickly clarify that this simply is not the genre of Scripture.  The Bible, as overwhelmingly a narratival account of God's interaction with his people, is authoritative more in the manner of a case book than a rule book (the 'rules' which unquestionably occur generally relate to a specific context).  The Bible, therefore, though sufficient in its witness to the gospel and to God as revealed in the gospel, makes no claim of comprehensiveness: it makes no claim to tell us all there is to know.'  John Colwell, Promise and Presence p 227

Still one of my favourite books.  

The question for the Church today with all things is not whether our theology, ethics and practice conform to a supposed biblical blueprint, but whether our theology, ethics and practice  are a consistent and appropriate response to the biblical witness.  

Man Of God

I can't figure out if Pastor Cody is for real or not!  If he is, then very worrying.  If he isn't, then I suspect it's a pretty insightful look at some streams of church leadership...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Way of the Master

Was listening to a fascinating discussion the other day between Todd Friel and Doug Pagitt.

For those that don't know who they are, Todd Friel is a part of 'The Way of the Master' (conservative, american, evangelical) while Doug Pagitt is a pastor of 'Solomon's Porch' (emergent).  

(I'm with Doug by the way!)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Cross and Hell

On Sunday morning a friend of mine and of the church came and spoke.  He came and spoke about the Cross of Christ.  I know he sometimes reads my blog so please feel free to answer some of the questions that have sprung up in my mind as a result of what you said on Sunday!

Two main points that came up that I want to discuss:

1. 'We are more wicked than we could possibly imagine but more loved than we could have ever dreamed'.  
Now the more loved bit I can cope with, but the more wicked bit I'm struggling with.
I believe we are all sinners and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  I believe that the gravity of sin is seen at the Cross of Jesus.  I believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world. But does these lead us to conclude that we are more wicked than we could possible imagine?  Or that the consequences of sin are more terrible than we could imagine?
I believe we are all capable of great wickedness and that sin can lay at our door ready to consume us, but are we defined by our wickedness or by our goodness?  Put another way, does God see us as wicked or as good?  Are we wicked with a dose of goodness or are we created good and distorted by sin?  Are we not created in God's image and therefore seen as 'good' by God but because of sin we are capable of great wickedness?  
I suppose I'm asking the question, where is our starting point when we are seeking a theology of humanity?

2.  'Better than you deserve'.  Another point was that whatever we are going through in our lives it is better than we deserve.  In other words, because we deserve hell but have been saved by God, anything that we go through in this life is better than what we deserve.
I just wonder how that would sound to those who experience hell on earth.  How does that sound to the mother who has lost her baby to disease or to the husband who's wife has been killed in a car crash or to those caught up in wars and disasters.   

I want to ask the only 2 theological questions that we need 'What kind of God?' and 'So what?'.  

What kind of God is being believed in here and what are the implications for believing in this God?  To me it sounds like a schizophrenic God who says 'I love you/I want to punish you/stop moaning about your suffering, it's better than hell.'  This then leads me onto a theology of hell and what it is because this again begs the question of 'what kind of God?'

If hell is a place of eternal torment then the above theology fits (better than we deserve) and if hell is a place of eternal fire and torment then how does that fit with cross of Christ?

The Cross says that the Kingdom of God does not come with violence and coercion, but comes through suffering and sacrifice.  Yet a traditional conservative view of hell and the atonement says that actually God will still get his way and inflict pain and torment and punishment on those whom he supposedly loves.

The human soul is not immortal in the sense that its immortality is given by God.  Therefore, if hell is a place of eternal torment then God willingly allows those in hell to be tormented for eternity on the basis of some finite sin.  This is not justice.  Would God really do to those whom he loves that which humanity would not do to their worst enemies?  Admittedly our understanding of justice is flawed by sin, but what kind of God is this?  It's a God a would not want to follow.  Does not this view of God and the vision of God revealed through Christ sit opposed to each other?  Surely God's justice is way above our own, defined by his love.

The person of Jesus and His work on the Cross is one of suffering and sacrifice to reveal the love and forgiveness of God.  God could have forgiven us without the Cross.  The Cross was not needed for God to forgive us.  It was the consequences of our sin that needed to be dealt with (death, decay etc).  This is why penal substitution sits so uneasy with me.  It means that God asks of us something he is unable to do.  God says 'forgive'.  PS says that God can't forgive unless he punishes someone in our place.  That's like God saying to you 'Go and forgive your neighbour and then go kick the cat'.  

I realise that on Sunday hell was not really spoken about and penal substitution was not explored, but I suspect the traditional conservative view of the cross and hell were at the foundation of what was being said.  Please do not see this as a attack on the person, it is a concern with certain streams of doctrine.

I am still trying to work through my own understandings of anthropology,  ontology, theology of the Cross etc so apologies if the above seems a bit disjointed.   

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Swan

This has got to be one of the worst shows ever created.  It is an example of pure exploitation, manipulation, fantasy, consumerism, abuse etc etc etc.

I was watching 'You have Been Watching' on C4 the other night and they were discussing the worst shows on TV.  Jeremy Kyle and this were the worst on there that night.


Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

    So God created man in his own image, 
       in the image of God he created him; 
       male and female he created them...

...God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.