… a calm and joyful non-compliance with evil

I love this, from Dallas Willard:\r\n\r\n”Seeing God for who he is enables us to see ourselves for who we are.\r\n\r\n”This makes us bold, for we see what clearly what great good and evil are at issue, and we see that it is not up to us to accomplish it but up to God who is more than able. We are delivered from pretending, from being presumptuous about ourselves, and from pushing as if the outcome depended on us. \r\n\r\n”We persist without frustration.\r\n\r\n”We practice calm and joyful non-compliance with evil of any kind.\r\n\r\n”We will do the very best we know. We will work hard, even self-sacrificially, but we do not carry the load and our ego is not involved in any way with this mission and the ministry. In our love of Jesus and his Father we truly have abandoned our life to him.\r\n\r\n“Our life is not an object of deep concern any more.”\r\n\r\nDallas Willard: The Great Omission 

How many theologians does it take to turn the light on? Part 2 – William Temple

The blog How many theologians does it take to turn the light on?  Part 1”  implies that when we argue about faith we are for the main part misguided.\r\n\r\nWe argue with the wrong people (imaginary ones who mainly exist in our heads) and on the wrong subjects (questions not being asked by most people) and in the wrong way (without connecting our heads and our hearts).\r\n\r\nThe approach a person takes towards faith is rarely through argument alone. Otherwise how would the church grow in places where intellectual argument is not the currency of daily life. And yet surprisingly the church does grow in less educated communities around the world. (As an aside, it begs the question: why are the largest Churches in the Church of England almost exclusively middle class? I think it’s mainly due to a misunderstanding about the central work of the Holy Spirit in the miracle of faith).\r\n\r\nAnyway, on the question of argument, William Temple put it best and put it this way:\r\n

“I do not suppose that any man has ever lived who began actually to practice any religion on intellectual grounds alone. And for ninety-nine people out of a one hundred the importance of the intellectual statement is rather that it removes barriers to their spiritual activity than it ever launches them upon it.

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But there are some problems (although I believe in fact there is only one) which fall within the field of philosophy and genuinely hinder from worship those who would desire to offer it. That one is the problem of evil. The others I believe to be conundrums asked in a spirit partly of levity and partly of the search for an excuse that the claim made by the Gospel upon our allegiance may be avoided.

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If any of you are supposing that you are definitely hindered from trusting God by purely intellectual doubts, I want to ask you how much you want to trust him. Because if you do not want to trust him or find a god to trust, then no amount of argument will lead you to it. And the desire must be kindled some other way than by argument.

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But if you do desire it, even if you desire it only because you have seen what it means in the lives of some other people, then you will be right to sift and test as rigorously as you can by the activity of your mind the case that is put forward for belief in God. And at least you will become aware whether your faith is something that you can present rationally or is something to which you are still holding (as, when all is said and done, some of the greatest saints have held to it) even though you can find no clear balance of reason in favour of it.”

\r\n(from Basic Convictions; Harper and Brothers, 1936)

William Temple and the Threshold of Faith

The average church member’s timidity in articulating their faith outside the church walls should be one of the greatest concerns of Western church leaders of the early 21st century church.\r\n\r\nToo dramatic?\r\n\r\nWell, not in the context of the decline of the established church in the west. Some notable observers of these things reckon that the church as we know it today will not exist in England for many more years.\r\n\r\nThe pressure felt by the average Christian to be more articulate is a product of multiple factors, not least of which is the fear of being ‘found out’ to be intellectually weak. But here are three simple ways we could start to remedy the situation.\r\n

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  • first, we could rely less on the didactic presentation of ‘truth’ from the pulpit as the sole means of developing theological thinking, as generally it doesn’t. Instead, increase the quantity and quality of conversation around theological themes among ordinary parishioners.
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  • second, as this conversation grows, encourage people of faith to recognise that those of us within the church are not as far apart as we presume from those outside, who may also wish to join the conversation.
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  • and third, we should realise that good quality conversation on theology, like good conversation in general, doesn’t rely on formulas or ‘magic bullets’ to score points. Rather, by its nature good conversation is an open minded way of finding an approach to the ‘threshold of faith’, as William Temple put it.
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\r\nMore fully the Archbishop says: \r\n\r\n“remember that [there are] many ways of approach [to faith] and that all the ways of approach lead us only to the threshold; for religious faith does not consist in supposing that there is a God; it consists in personal trust in God rising to personal fellowship with God”.\r\n\r\nAnd we do that, says the Archbishop, “by going to school not with the philosophers but with the saints

How many theologians does it take to turn the light on?

During the morning I read up on some philosophical/theological/moral puzzles. I like to be ahead of the game on apologetics (for which read – arguing with others).\r\n\r\nEvolution. Creation. Global Disasters.Sexuality and Gender. Truth. Evil and A Good God.\r\n\r\nWith these high thoughts in mind and a sudden realisation of a meeting looming I popped out to my local shopping high street to buy a printer ink cartridge for a last minute printing of a recent document (another Great Puzzle: why do cartridges and staplers run out at critical times?)\r\n\r\nIt was an emergency. I was in a desperate rush.\r\n\r\nBut even so, when I had parked the car and run to the high street, I stopped in my tracks.\r\n\r\nLiterally.\r\n\r\nStanding still in the middle of the pedestrianised shopping area.\r\n\r\nI stood and looked at the generally old and generally poor people passing by me who live and shop in my part of the city.\r\n\r\nAnd I couldn’t image that any one of the great puzzles that filled my mind today were of any concern to any of these people. And certainly not in the terms I was thinking of them.\r\n\r\nWhy have we lost the means to communicate the gospel effectively to the ordinary person?\r\n\r\nBased on this experience alone I would have to suggest it’s because we are misguidedly preparing to answer imaginary questions from an (equally, for most of us) imaginary well educated, chattering class of people; imaginary people whose images are formed in our heads I suspect by the voices on radios and televisions which have become the models for erudite religious argument. No wonder we can’t measure up!\r\n\r\nWilliam Temple put it this way: …\r\n

“if you do not want to trust God or to find a God to trust, then no amount of argument will lead you to it. The desire must be kindled in some other way than argument.”

\r\nA fuller extract of Archbishop Temple’s quote is worth reading …here..

“Work Work Work”

Pope Francis departed from his set text during a visit to the poor Italian outpost of Sardinia, home to Italy’s last coal mining community, to say that “where there is no work there is no dignity.”\r\n\r\nThe crowd were chanting “Work, Work, Work” and he picked up on the mood by going off-script saying\r\n

“…. it is a consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its centre an idol which is called money”.

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“greed is a sin against the first commandment. One cannot worship God and money. Jesus tells us you cannot serve money and God. It must be one or the other.”

\r\n … there’s something to think about …

5 Questions to lead a bible study

Eddie Gibbs, guru to church thinkers worldwide, came across a small community in Australia that used a simple set of questions to guide their corporate study of the Bible. A particular passage would be printed on an A4 sheet of paper as most people didn’t have a Bible, and printing it out put everyone on a level playing field.\r\n\r\nI’ve used these five questions to great effect with Christian and un-Christian groups alike.\r\n\r\nThey are:\r\n\r\nWhat did you like about that passage?\r\n\r\nWhat didn’t you like about the passage?\r\n\r\nWhat didn’t you understand in that passage?\r\n\r\nWhat God say to you out of the passage?\r\n\r\nWhat are you going to do about it?

Seeds in the pocket?

This week I read Mark chapter 4. The parables of seeds.\r\n\r\nThere was enough in the first parable (“… of the sower”) to keep me puzzling for a long time …\r\n\r\n(are ALL parables really like this as says Jesus? and did Jesus’ theology came fully formed, day one, sermon one, or did it develop over three years? and so on)\r\n\r\n… so that I almost missed the second parable as I got up to leave -\r\n\r\n-  “… of the man with seeds in his pocket”.\r\n\r\nThe story is simple enough. A man takes seeds out of his pocket and throws them to the ground. He goes home, goes to bed, gets up, goes to bed, gets up, and guess what, the seeds grow. How? He doesn’t know. The seeds, and the earth, together, produce life – shoots, stalks, harvest.\r\n\r\nUnlike in the first parable, the man in the second parable is just a man, not a farmer, so there’s no confusion that it’s the seed and the soil that do the work, not the skill of the man.\r\n\r\nThe man just throws the seeds out of his pocket.\r\n\r\nWhatever else you might think this story shows, we could probably agree that seeds in the pocket are no good. Seeds have to be in the ground.\r\n\r\nSo …\r\n\r\nThis week I have been throwing seeds out of my pockets.\r\n\r\nA letter here. A meeting there. A phone call. A conversation. A prayer. \r\n\r\nIt turns out that my pockets are full of seeds. It was a surprise. I usually spend so long trying to grow trees in my pockets that I couldn’t see the seeds for the trees, and hadn’t realised that there were other seeds to sow, and that …\r\n\r\n… the Kingdom of God works this way.\r\n\r\nAnd for more on fruit see Seasonal Fruit