Posted on April 22, 2021
These are, as the title suggests, minorly edited book notes, but hoping that a few of you might enjoy a peek into them. The other posts in this series on the Apostles Creed can be found here.
What do we believe about God? Right away the creed uses the language of Scripture: God is “Father.” It is an echo of revelation when Christians use this word. It is not an idea based on speculation or philosophical reasoning. Jesus reveals God as his “Father.” He relates to God as his own Father and invites his followers to share in the same relationship.Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 19). Lexham Press.
While ideas about God abound in our day, as well as in the church in the ancient world, the Creed sets the record straight from the beginning. Whatever else you think you know about God, we begin by recognising God is relational. While Israel lived with the unspeakable name Yahweh, the “I am who I am”, Christians, through Jesus the Son, come to see that God is a Father and that he has chosen to be known by us in the context of relationship. The title ‘Father’ leads our minds to who He is the Father of: the Son, Jesus. It is through the Son that we have been adopted into God’s family.
We speak to God, and God listens to us, as if we were Jesus. Jesus is God’s child by nature, and we become God’s children by grace. Jesus is born of God; we are adopted. So when we confess that God is “Father,” it is not a theological idea but a confession of the defining relationship of our lives.Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 20). Lexham Press.
As Christians, we are constituted, which means we have our very being now, as Paul says, “in Christ”. We are not just included as additions to the relationship that God enjoys as Father, Son and Spirit, but we are on the inside of this relationship because we are on the inside of Christ. We have been made Christ’s body, his possession, his people. We have been adopted. It was popular for a while ( and in many situations still is) to ask ‘Jesus into your heart.’ While there might be some defence of this, it is truer to say that we have been invited into the heart of God’s life in Jesus.
Posted on April 20, 2021
Book Notes: The Apostles Creed | Part 2 | “I Believe”
These are, as the title suggests, minorly edited book notes, but hoping that a few of you might enjoy a peek into them. The other posts in this series on the Apostles Creed can be found here.
The truest and most important things we can ever say are not individual words but communal words…Myers, Benjamin The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 11)
In our particularly western world, we feel the truest thing we could say is something genuine, authentic and unique emerging from me. Myers points out that this is not very profound. After all, I am using words others understand, but these words have been used before me and will be used after me, so they are not truly mine. I am borrowing them to construct my point of view. Myers argues, and I think this is more intuitive to those of us outside the western purview of individualism, that the “me” who is “me” is formed by the “we.” I am formed and shaped by an interconnected web of persons. I am who I am because of the people I belong to, because of the people who have named me and formed me. Foundationally, this is my parents, but I am also formed by friends, teachers, my culture and my tribe. The Creed becomes the words I say as a part of this new tribe, a new nation for the sake of the nations. It becomes the Constitution of my new country, the place of my second birth.
Because of our desire for individual authenticity, we may feel suspicious of ‘historical’ words we inherit in the Creed, but we are invited to say words that have roots, words that remind us who we are, and whose we are. It reminds us that we belong and that we can believe and trust that all that is, has been, and will be said, is true.
“…when we say the Apostles’ Creed we are reminded that life itself is founded on trust… Most of the things we know about the world are really things we believe on the basis of someone else’s word. We can’t verify for ourselves if events in world history have really happened. But we accept testimonies that have come down to us from the past. We can’t visit every location on a map to verify that they all really exist.”Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 13-14).
Our lives are impossible without trust. We have to trust to live and yet in an age of verification and fake news, our ability to trust has become mortally wounded. The Apostle’s Creed invites us to say “I believe” and yet the I who believes, when it is just me, is endlessly buffeted by the crosswinds of doubt and uncertainty.
“The tragic quality of life comes partly from the fact that human beings are not always trustworthy, yet still we cannot live without trust. The gospel holds out to us the promise of a totally trustworthy God. Can we verify that promise? Augustine’s answer, surprisingly, is yes. Over time we learn that God’s promise is worthy of our trust. God’s trustworthiness is verified by experience. But we don’t start with verification. We start with trust: this leads to experience: and experience leads to knowledge of God’s trustworthiness. Augustine says, “If you can’t understand, believe, and then you’ll understand.”Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 15). Lexham Press.
We live in a broken world with broken people, and many of us have likely had more experiences of broken trust than trust fulfilled. The invitation of the Creed is to believe in and trust a person versus an impersonal maths formula. As Augustine says, counterintuitively to our age of suspicion, we trust in order to know. I married my wife in trust that when she said her marriage vows, she meant them. I had to hold trust so that I could wait to experience a life with her that would validate that trust.
Posted on April 14, 2021
Book Notes: The Apostles Creed | Part 1 | Introduction
These are, as the title suggests, minorly editted book notes, but hoping that a few of you might enjoy a peek into them
It’s hard to imagine a better primer to a journey of deepening our theological understanding for the sake of discipleship than Myers’ introduction in the book The Apostle’s Creed;
“That is why I wrote this book. Not because anyone needs to be told what to believe but because Christ’s followers have everything they need already. “All things are yours,” says Paul: “all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor 3:21–23). We are not beggars hoping for scraps. We are like people who have inherited a vast estate: we have to study the documents and visit different locations because it’s more than we can take in at a single glance. In the same way, it takes considerable time and effort to begin to comprehend all that we have received in Christ. Theological thinking does not add a single thing to what we have received. The inheritance remains the same whether we grasp its magnitude or not. But the better we grasp it, the happier we are. So this small book is an invitation to happiness.”Myers, The Apostles Creed, p. XV (emphasis mine)
Myers goes on to describe the early church’s practice of baptism which included a call and response of these creedal truths. This is, in many ways, the most native place for the creed to exist. Unlike our modern age’s fixation on ideas for their own sake, saying the creed is not an invitation to know in some anaemic way, like knowing your car’s license plate number, this being a dead kind of knowing, an informational kind of knowing. The invitation of the creed, like baptism, is an invitation to be immersed in the reality that the creed speaks of. It is to be enveloped into union and participation with the God who has acted in history and definitively in Jesus the Christ. We lose our lives to find them, but we count what we have lost as nothing compared to the wonder of knowing and being known by this God who is Love all the way down.
Another helpful reality Myers makes plain is that we are baptised in Christ, with many others throughout time and in our own times, in nations and cities, some that we have seen and many that we might never see. Speaking the creed unites us in practice with the many believers both throughout history and around the world who say this creed week in week out as a token of their faith.
The Apostle’s Creed is the earliest, most foundational and inclusive of all the creeds. Despite the many meaningful discussions and disagreements amongst the people of God about matters of interpretation and practise, the creed sets out the primary things. From the beginning, God has purposed in creation the realities the creed speaks of and has gathered us together as the Church, the people of God for His namesake around these realities. We hold on to these things as our hope, and we are the manifestation of that hope to the world and cosmos which surrounds us.
While the Nicene Creed was formulated under the duress of false teaching in the early centuries of the Church, and therefore contains specific formulations inspired by the Holy Spirit to keep the Church’s life on track, the Apostle’s Creed is comparatively simple. It is a simple confession of facts. It is, in many ways, not the lofty or ornate-thinking as imagined by philosophers or even poets, but rather a telling of a series of historical events. These things that happened, despite their plain appearance, are in reality the loftiest and most ornate things that have ever happened.
While the Creed does not replace the intricate weaving of letters, history and poetry that the scriptures hold, it is a basic guide to the substance of the Biblical story. In the early days of the church, and today in many places where the church is only beginning to emerge, illiterate believers and those who don’t have access to a text, find in it a faithful testimony in a form that is easy to retain and repeat.
The Creed is a testimony, but it is more than just information. Myers writes that:
“…the creed is both informative and performative, both educational and sacramental. It is a summary of Christian teaching as well as a solemn pledge of allegiance.”Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 5)
Ultimately, the Creed doesn’t just ask us to believe but to bow. It tells a story and then invites us to live in light of that story and to recognise its continuation throughout our own stories. The Creed encompasses and enlarges our small individual points of view so that we begin to see ourselves caught up in this grand drama of redemption and renewal called God’s Church.
Posted on April 8, 2021
A quick thought on Heresy
I am writing more frequently these days in my newsletter “Lectio Letter“, but now and again I’m posting some of these quickfire thoughts on this blog too…here is one;
Heresy is a term woefully out of fashion. Too close to the tolerance and open-mindedness that pervades our sense of goodness in this era. But Ben Quash in his opening to “Heresies and How to Avoid them” helpfully explains the significance of unity in the midst of the extraordinary diversity that the church of Jesus Christ is meant to embody;
“From its very beginnings, Christianity said that neither your race, nor your sex, nor your social class, nor your age could ever be a bar to full membership of Christ’s body, the church. Anyone could be a Christian: you didn’t have to be born in the right place at the right time to the right parents. Christ’s salvation was offered to you whether you were a Jew or a Gentile, a slave or free person, a woman or a man. This was radical stuff. What, though, was left to mark a Christian out from a non-Christian? The answer was: your faith – what you believed in, as embodied in your practices and confessed with your lips.”Ben Quash “Heresies and How to Avoid them” p.1
Importantly, Heresy isn’t just about believing the wrong things but actively teaching them to others. We are all Hetredox, that is, having incomplete and incoherent views of God in Jesus. Our life in Christ is secure without needing the exactly right formulations of Christian belief tripping off our tongues.
The impulse which creates heresy is not the pure evil of anti-Christ. Most early church heretics are in fact, sincere, scripture-attentive believers. They marshall scripture to support their claims but most often they are trying to untie a riddle, tension or mystery. It is not that they say the wrong things, but that they attempt to say too much or stop short and say too little. They simplify, make straight forward and wholly understandable the unknowable depths of Christian confession. A trajectory our modern desire to make things simple may too often fall into. We are restrained to say Jesus of Nazareth is 100% God and 100% man. Simplifiers want to say, either that he is only or predominantly God or Man. They want to give percentages, accuracy and reduce the mystery that 100%+100% still equals 100%. That the three in one trinitarian confession must either be three or one. They want to shrink Christian confession down to such a tangible concept that they pull the awe and mystery required for worship out of the whole thing.
This last point is what is most significant. Orthodoxy, that is the right teaching or belief of the church is not only right thoughts. Doxa, the word from which Orthodoxy is made, is right worship. Our knowing enables our worship, which far from being just our songs and services but is our whole lives. Orthodoxy should lead to orthopraxy, which is a lived-out theology that glorifies God and leads to the flourishing of all creation as it works in awareness of the reality that God has revealed.
Part of why Christian theology can be so head-spinning is not because it is complex, it is in fact simple. It is held together by the confession of the Church throughout history in the power of the Spirit who confesses an interconnected web of affirmations that make up the reality of God revealed most clearly in the person of Jesus.
What so often takes place in heresy is the sole attention on one doctrine, the person of Christ, atonement, trinity and attempts to unpick that knot. Much like when I attempt to untangle my garden hose only to realise the loops and knots I have loosened in one part of the hose have created similar problems in the section of hose behind me that I am not fixated on.
Ben Quash quotes the church father Iranaeus who creates a memorable metaphor for how this interconnected web, tangled hose or in his metaphor jewels in a mosaic come together to form a faithful and beautiful picture of the God we come to know in Jesus Christ. He says of the impulse of heretics;
“the manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the King, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what are king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the King.”Iraneaus, Against heresies, book 1, chapter 8, paragraph 1
As Ben Quash goes on to say;
“Heretics have often been shy of the full radicalness of Orthodox Christianity, such that they are alternatives have been almost rather common-sensical by comparison… This puts paid to any idea that orthodox beliefs some sort of easy way out of intellectual hard work; heresy is more off in the easier option.”Quash, p.7
Learning about historical heresy teachers us that rather than follow our noses and a commonsense approach to putting ideas together that make up christian belief, we are in fact invited to bow the knee at the extraordinary revelation of who God is that is gifted and revealed by the very one who is revealed. The revelation that is just too beautiful, glorious and good news to ever have been constructed by human minds.
Posted on February 17, 2021
In recent years, as readers of this blog will know, I’ve become more and more convinced that we need to redeem our days by setting our clocks to the story of Jesus. The Church through the ages has been shaped by marking time through a Christian Calendar rather than by the time given by their surrounding cultures. I’ve written about that in more depth here if you’re interested.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and in 2021 it seems that it is particularly poignant. It is a day where we are invited to “consider our deaths”.
The traditional practice of Ash Wednesday is for a Priest to burn the palm sunday crosses from the year before and then to mark the foreheads of those present with ashen crosses.
It is a strange practise but, like many liturgical practises there is a sermon in the sign. A full year before the celebrations of Palm sunday, the remembering of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, celebrated as a coming liberating King. A year later those same celebratory palms are the ash through which we remember;
“from dust we came and to dust we shall return”
God’s conquering King, in the eyes of the palm branch wavers, was seemingly conquered by the Roman Empire at the cross just a few days later.
Many of our premature celebrations turn to dust, but just like the act of baptism represents, God calls us to death in order that we can find life. Lent is a time of remembering that we are dead people walking.
Lent reminds us that although by the Spirit of God we participate in Christ’s resurrected body we await our own and the renewing of all the cosmos around us. In Lent, we resist our culture’s tendency to rush to end of the story and we reflect on the ‘not yet’ of the Kingdom of God.
The story our cultures tell us often portray a view of life that will never end. But the time of Lent is for Christian’s to take a true life audit and part of that is considering our finiteness, put bluntly taking seriously that one day we will die.
Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
We have become addicted to racing past grief, distracting ourselves from loss. Our culture teaches us to pick the easy route, and certainly considering our own death is not that. But although death is an enemy of God and one He has and will conquer it does teach us about how to live in this time. Death teaches us humility.
A number of years ago, a 14 year old from the teenage discipleship club we help run in Masiphuemelele committed suicide. The day of his memorial we had planned to begin the Alpha Course with this same community. We decided to go ahead and work through the first session which was “Life: Is this it?” One of the questions was, “If this was your last 24 hours, what would you do with it?”
Questions like that can provoke our fear, our anxiety, or maybe our ambition, all the things we have yet to do. But Lent is a time to remember our smallness, our finiteness, our need of God and our rememberance that we are dust. The word ‘humility’ comes from the root of humus, which means ground or dust.
Wise people take time to dwell in the serious, contemplating death takes work. It is true that Jesus offers us abundant life, but he requires that we enter death, His death, and our own in order to truly receive that.
Maybe you can find a simple way to mark this day around your dinner table, here are some simple ideas;
- Read Psalm 51 slowly together and then take some time to sit listening to the song below
Finally, you might consider reading this simple prayer/liturgy from the forthcoming prayer book Every Moment Holy, Vol. 2: Death, Grief, and Hope which can be pre-ordered on Rabbit Room:
Children of the Living God,
Let us now speak of dying,
and let us speak without fear,
for we have already died with Christ,
and our lives are not our own.
Our dying is part of the story
that God is telling to us,
and part of the story
that God is telling through us.
It is not a dark and hopeless word
we must take pains to skirt or
mention only in hushed whispers lest
our conversations grow awkward
Rather, death is a present and
unavoidable reality, and one
through which we—the people
of God—must learn to openly
walk with one another.
Yes, it is cause for lament. Death is
a horrible and inevitable sorrow.
It is grief. It is numb shock and
raw pain and long seasons of
weeping and ache. And we will
experience it as such.
But it is more than all of that.
For is is also a baptism,
a prelude to a celebration.
Our true belief that Christ died
and was raised again
promises this great hope:
That there will be a newness of life,
a magnificent resurrection that
follows death and swallows it entirely.
Death will not have the final word,
so we need not fear to speak of it.
Death is not a period that ends a sentence.
It is but a comma,
a brief pause before the fuller thought
unfolds into eternal life.
Beloved of Christ, do not
hide from this truth: Each of
us in time must wrestle death.
In our youth we might have run
in fear from such lament, but only
those who soberly consider their
mortal end can then work backward
from their certain death, and so begin
to build a life invested in eternal things.
We should remember death throughout
our lives, that we might arrive at last
well-prepared to follow our Lord
into that valley, and through it,
further still, to our resurrection.
Death is not the end of life.
It is an intersection—a milestone
we pass in our eternal pursuit of Christ.
Yes, death is an inhuman, hungering thing.
But it is also the pompous antagonist in a
divine comedy. Even as it seeks to destroy
all that is good, death is proved a near-sighted
buffoon whose overreaching plans will fail,
whose ephemeral kingdom will crumble.
For all along, death has been blindly serving
the deeper purposes of God within us—
giving us the knowledge that
all we gather in this short life will soon
be scattered, that all we covet will soon
be lost to us, that all we accomplish by
our ambition will soon be rendered as
meaningless as vapor.
Death reveals the utter vanity of all our
misplaced worship and all our feebly-
And once we’ve seen, in light of death,
how meaningless all our human strivings
have been, then we can finally apprehend
what the radical hope of a bodily resurrection
means for mortals like us—and how
the labors of Christ now reshape
and reinterpret every facet of our lives,
rebuilding the structures of our hopes
till we know that nothing of eternal worth will ever be lost.
Yes, we are crucified with our Lord,
but all who are baptized into his death
are also resurrected into his life, so that
we live now in the overlap of the kingdoms
of temporal death and eternal life—
and when it is our time to die,
we die in that overlap as well,
and there we will find that our dying has
already been subverted, rewritten, folded in,
and made a part of our resurrection.
Have we not all along been
rehearsing Christ’s death and
his life in the sacrament of his
communion? We have been both
remembering and rehearsing
our union and reunion with him.
O children of God, do you now see?
Your pursuit of Christ has always
demanded a daily dying to your own self,
and to your own dreams.
That final, brief sleep of death is but the last
laying down of all those lesser things, that
you might awake remade, set free, rejoicing
in the glorious freedom that will be yours.
Yes, hate death!
It is an enemy—
but an enemy whose end approaches, and
whose assault can inflict no lasting wound.
Yes, weep and grieve!
But more than that, believe!
The veil is thinner than we know.
And death is thinner still.
It cannot hold any whose names are
dearly known to God. Rejoice in this!
Death is neither a grey void, nor
a dungeon cell—but a door.
And when Christ bids us
pass through at last,
we pass from life to Life.
If you’d like to support my reading and writing you can sign up for a fortnightly members-only newsletter The Lectio Letter. You can flick through the archives (one’s without a star are open to anyone to read) to see if it’s something you might be interested in.
Posted on July 12, 2020
Entering into Advent | A Lectio Letter Preview
This is a preview of an article from my members-only newsletter The Lectio Letter. To find out more and to read this entire article head to LectioLetter.com
“We are adrift. I know that seems dramatic, but it becomes increasingly apparent that in this post-modern malaise our lives can often drift on without a meaningful sense of direction bar the odd spurt of intentionality or a passing moment of stirred emotion.
Into the fray walks, the much neglected practise of the Christian calendar. A calendar that was designed to imbue every year of our lives with a steady retelling of the Gospel. This lifetime immersion in the story which is intended to tell us how the world really is is desperately needed in a world in which we are thrown left and right by every new offer of a ‘big story’.
As Christians have discovered again and again throughout history, our individual, family, tribal, and national lives end up as small claustrophobic stories. Stories which, ultimately, fail at the task of weaving a narrative that catches up all of creation in the loving gaze of its creator.
A fixation on these smaller stories, is, to return to the opening metaphor, like fixing the vessel of our lives to an untethered buoy, somehow believing that it is, in fact, an anchor. The buoy may help us to position ourselves, but it does not bring us into contact with the firm and stable structures that underpin our very existence.
The Lectio Letter | Issue #1
Do not misunderstand me, it is not that attending to our personal, familial and cultural stories is unimportant. If we neglect to take stock of these and how they have shaped us, we will not have a keen enough grasp on our own reality to offer it back to God. But we cannot lose grip on the main thing, to take what is ours and offer onto the altar of God which refines, transfigures, and multiplies our small lives into a participation in the everlasting life of God…”
You can sign up to the Lectio Letter by entering your email below but you also have to complete the second step of becoming a member in order to receive the newsletter and to gain access to all the previous issues by going to LectioLetter.com here.
Posted on July 10, 2020
The Lectio Letter
At the end of last year, I started a writing project called Lectio Letter hence the quietness on this blog in the past twelve months.
I do intend to keep writing for this blog but I will also share previews of the work I am doing for the Lectio Letter.
The project grew out of my need to drum up a budget for buying books. In the last season, I have been working on more and more curriculum development for the courses (Teleios and the M.A. Programme) offered through the Centre for Christian Formation. As I explored resources and approaches to helping those working in ministry deepen their practise and understanding of theology and discipleship I recognised I was going to need to explore much more widely, which ultimately meant buying books!
I hoped, and now have confirmed, that given the number of people who would ask me for book recommendations, as well as those who often report less time to read than they’d like, that I could convince a few kind-hearted folks to ‘sponsor’ me to read and to write some reflections in an exclusive, members-only newsletter (It’s $5 each month).
It’s been almost 8 months and I have managed to publish one every two weeks (meaning for the budget-conscious among you that each newsletter ‘costs’ $2.50), and have been very grateful for lots of gracious and encouraging feedback.
As a reader of this blog, I’d be delighted if you’d consider signing up to help support my book-buying habit and hope that in return you’ll find some value in my reflections.
Should you be less than interested in bookish sounding reflections, I also include a brief update on what we are working on, recommend some music, something worth watching and a plethora of interesting links (much like the link lists I used to post here).
Posted on February 15, 2019
Friday Link List | 15th February 2019
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a friday link list. As ever, I recommend you grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this miscellaneous list (or save it for a slow saturday morning!).
There are few people that would find everything here interesting, but hopefully there is a little something for everyone;
What I’ve written recently;
- A four part Series during Advent on the affectiveness of the Christian Calendar;
- Who’s Telling the Time – Part 1
- It takes time to get into a Story – Part 2
- Practising Advent Time – Part 3
- Christmastide – A time to Escape or Inhabit? – Part 4
- A number of my colleagues at the Centre for Christian Formation and Discileship are writing some truly excellent posts over here.
- Short Thoughts | Is Generation Z’s fragility destroying their ability to be discipled?
- Short Thoughts | Love is like Ghosts, Few have seen it but everybody talks
- Short Thoughts | Buy Minuites not data, It just might be more Christian
- Humanity is Suffering from Identity Theft
I’ve been more and more interested in the forms through which we read scriptures, screens, small text, illustrated text (and how they impact how we understand and draw from the text). Beauty creates a certain receptivity that we can’t deny. Transpositions posted a series on the first hand written in over 500 years, the Saint John’s bible.
In 1995, Donald Jackson, Senior Scribe to Queen Elizabeth II, presented his lifelong dream to handwrite and illuminate the Bible to the abbey and university. In 1998, they commissioned Jackson to begin the project, and on Ash Wednesday in 2000, he drew the first words: ‘In the beginning’. Eleven years later (2011), Donald and his wife, Mabel, presented the final page of The Saint John’s Bible to the abbey and university.”Via Alan Jacobs Newsletter
Alan Jacob’s, who I mention again below, makes this claim;
“Those who say that the personal is the political are wrong, but the error is understandable, and it’s probably better to make the equation than deny the connection.”
in his review of the film Roma which I began watching in a recent feverish flu-ridden bed day. Needless to say it required more attention that I could muster, but the cinematography is truly beautiful.
“Iris Murdoch once wrote of the Gospels that “they are the kind of great art where we feel: It is so.” That’s how I felt watching Roma.”
The famously anonymous street artist Banksy has increasingly turned toward aspects of performance art as he continues his subversive career. When someone tried to auction a famous work of art it shredded itself upon the blow of the gammel. It’s hard to imagine this wasn’t somewhat staged. Here’s a video of how it was made..
I’ve more and more been gaining a laymans appreciation of classical and choral music. NPR tiny desk has been the way I discovered many musicians, here is a truly astounding performance by a russian pianist who is still in his 20’s and is already called
“without question the most astounding pianist of our age.”by The Times of London.
Under the topic of sound, this is more like ‘sound advice’ (excus the pun!). Fernandos Gros comments on the productivity cult which argues for early rising. His almost too obvious to mention, but not obvious enough wisdom is “get enough sleep”…The whole article is worth reading here, if like me, you are sometimes tempted to ascend to the dizzy heights of productivity hacks.
Popular Etymology (0rigin of words) writer the Inky fool writes A Quick Guide to Decoding English Place Names.
It’s generally quite easy to guess the etymology of an English place name, and quite pleasant too, as you get to sound clever. The system is not in the slightest bit infallible, but it generally works
Truth, Theology and Thinking
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been enjoying reading Alan Jacob’s writing on and offline. He is a thoughtful christian voice, which is rarer than it should be. I’ve been reading his biography of the common book of prayer which is part of the ‘lives of great religious books series’. A book I haven’t read, but sounds fascinating, which he writes about here is “The Year of Our Lord 1943” which traces the similarities between simultaneous Christian thinkers, Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil as they approach the end of the war and consider what it will take to rebuild the soul of the world, spoiler, it’s education.
The structure of the book is narrative which makes these thinkers and Jacob’s own argument centering around their coherence despite lack of interaction with one another much more readable.
Fascinating conversation between Glen Scrivener and Andrew Wilson. They are touching on some areas which have been very significant for me in the last few years at about 30mins into their conversation. Namely, as we seek charismatic gifts, Is the distinction between natural and supernatural helpful? As they discuss, I think the future breaking into the now, rather than the ‘up’ breaking into the ‘down’ is a far more biblical picture of what is happening when we experience when we experience what we’ve commonly referred to as the supernatural. They mention CS Lewis’ perspective which I had not heard before, which is that the inbreaking of God’s reality in the miraculous is not a suspension of the natural order of things but instead a restoration of the truest way things were created to be, which I couldn’t agree more with. Watch the video below if you are interested in hearing more of that…
The Theopolis Institute is about to embark on a course relating to Christian paths towards human maturity. Being in a context that is making it our business to consider this very question I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued to read David Field’s lengthy and opening article which proposed Reformed Christians should be paying attention to Freudian Psychology, Zen Buddhism, and the Desert Father. Not a common voice, but actually I think it was done in a very careful and accomadating way.
What follows simply presents a list of topics and propositions relating to psychoanalysis, the Desert Fathers, Zen Buddhism, the self, breathing, silence, the unconscious, discipleship, counseling, and our deep and unsatisfied desire to be like Christ.
It is intended, however, that the list also serves as an argument in support of the simple proposition: Reformed Christians would do well to take a look at the proposals and practices of psychoanalysis, the Desert Fathers, and Zen Buddhism because these supposed ‘paths to human maturity’, at the very least, generate some important challenges and questions for us.David Fields – Paths to Human Maturity
Alistair Roberts adds his voice here too;
Wisdom moves us beyond the enclosed and domesticated realm of the garden and into the wider world, where we must deal with dangerous and untamed beasts with shrewdness and skill, not merely with the more binary categories of the Law that are most prominent in our childhood.
Another voice I’ve been appreciating (and who’s writing is keeping me in the loop with a number of happening in the UK Anglican world) is Ian Paul. He is a scholar in the book of Revelation, but seems to speak sense in many areas he covers. Here’s an excellent guide on how to read the endlessly misunderstood book of Revelation well.
I hadn’t heard of the recent controversy surrounding Liam Neeson’s, put briefly;
“He had heard that a friend had been raped by a black man, and confessed that he had, for a time, sought to vent his anger on any black man he could find—though he never actually enacted this.”Liam Neeson Interview on the Independent
Ian Paul illuminatingly describes this as another situation where there is no grace or forgiveness within the public square even if someone’s admission is given as a confession;
The whole point of Neeson’s story is to show how horrible the attitude he held really was and (in reference to the revenge movie he is promoting) to highlight the hollowness of seeking revenge at all. Neeson was not painting himself as a hero here, he was pointedly casting himself as someone not to be emulated here.
Now, without diminishing what a horrible attitude and thing to do this really was (and Neeson made no bones about that fact), this highlights the problem with a new morality. There is no grace, forgiveness or restoration for those who transgress. It matter not whether it was a hidden attitude brought to light, or an action repented of long ago, what matters is that you broke the rules and there shall be no clemency.Ian Paul – Is there Forgiveness for Liam Neesons Sin
These type of situations helpfully reveal that societies, maybe even especially secularised one’s, live religiously. The question as ever, is not if we will worship, but who do we worship, and further still, if we become like what you worship, what or who are we becoming?
That’s all for Today…
Posted on February 8, 2019
Is ‘Generation Z’s fragility destroying their ability to be discipled? | Short Thoughts
Something has to go…
It seems that in following Jesus something within you, that was alive and very much a part of you has to die in order to find the truer life that Jesus is offering. This is gestured towards in our Baptisms, spoken of explicitly in verses like “Those that give up their life, find it” (Matthew 10:39) and more figuratively in “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground..” (John 12:24).
This part of us that has to ‘die’ has been thought of as our ego-structure from a psychological perspective, our sin nature from certain strands of new testament interpretation, our false self within psychoanalysis. Which ever perspective you come from discipleship involves certain things dying for other things to be raised up by the power of God.
But, as the cheesy sermon joke goes, “the problem with living sacrifices, is that they keep crawling off the altar”. Every generation it seems finds new ways to resist death, loss and grief. After all, it is the ground zero of our greatest fears, and so we obssess over it, ignore it, avoid it, all the while generally believing somewhere deeper than our cognition that death, quite literally, has the last word.
More than just a playground
In Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Coddling of the American mind – How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure“, he analyses the state of current University students in the US and the unfolding patters that developed their way of being.
Generation Z is the generation born from 1995 onwards, they are experiencing more anxiety and depression than any before. He identifyies as the sources of this reality, a move in the mid-90’s where parents, through fear of abuduction and a range of other dangers that provoked nation-wide paranoia, no longer allowed children to play outside with friends unsupervised. He remarks;
“parenting strategies and laws that make it harder for kids to play on their own pose a serious threat to liberal societies by flipping our default setting from “figure out how to solve this conflict on your own” to “invoke force and/ or third parties whenever conflict arises.”“The Coddling of the American mind – How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
What we are left with, Haidt is arguing, is an emerging generation of adults who, instead of being trained to work towards justice though conflict solving skills learnt in the playground, they now simply claim victimhood to adult-authority-figures even as they themselves become adults.
Is suffering necessary for maturity?
This lack of ability to become resilient and to take personal responsibilty as they navigate conflict and offense is now a serious problem for contexts which are seeking to form young people in the ways of Jesus.
In Jesus’ own life, he grows up and indeed functions in his ministry with singnificant opposition and a plurality of voices and perspectives claiming they are right. Increasingly, the millenial and Gen-Z generations, maybe especially within the church, are doing the opposite.
In the hyper-fragility which emerges due to a lack of sensed safety the generational group that Haidt researches seeks out tribal echo-chambers which surround themselves with enough similar voices that they are innoculated from dealing with opposing perspectives.
Haidt claims the cure for our current fragility is the removal, at least temporarily, of the relative comfort and protection that large swathes of western society have recently enjoyed;
“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”“The Coddling of the American mind – How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
Some untruths we need to unlearn..
Haidt and his co-writer claim that there are three untruths that have moved from being laughably wrong to widely accepted within a short amount of time;
- What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
- Always trust your feelings.
- Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
It seems that in light of this, central to discipling a generation who have been formed this way is to;
- To become aware of God at work by developing a perspective of sanctification and godly refinement taking place exactly in the places and times which are most uncomfortable and even painful.
- To validate the reality of the experience of feelings, and yet recognise that much of the task of self-governance is to referee your feelings in such a way as they are ordered in service to loving God, and others.
- To recognise that the line between good and evil runs through every heart, that their are tree limbs in our eyes, that none of us can cast the first stone. To recognise that humility, or recognising our limitedness is the way in which we affirm that God is God and we are not.
As groups that have had to endure generations of oppression are often markers of, suffering can be a context within which we develop character that relative comfort does not create. Similarly, the Apostle Paul once wrote;
“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character produces hope.”
Posted on December 5, 2018
Who is telling the time?
Part of the reason things here on the blog have been so stop and go are my activities with the new Centre for Christian Formation and Discipleship. The first part of my series on Time, Advent and the Christian Calendar has just been posted..
Time is not just passive or neutral, it is affective, it carries us along with a storied momentum. Time follows along all the days of our lives whispering to us about where, when, and who we are.