Friday, 18 March 2011

Christ's redemptive work and The Big Bible Project

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...Image via Wikipedia
I wonder if we understand the business of Christ’s redemption.  I mean what do YOU believe, how does it all work for you?

For those who have been to theological college and so on there may be some ‘official’ version and sure, there are theological arguments that go along with this territory, but what I really am wondering about is what we think about Christ’s redemption of everything in ordinary terms.

I am not thinking here about the evangelically enthusiastic sermons that I believe is the regular diet at such churches or the deeply devotional and mysterious goings on in the Anglo-Catholic churches.  I mean in the ordinary ‘on the street’ sort of way.

Lots of Christians are meeting in groups as is their tradition during lent to discuss all sorts of things and much of it will be exciting and rewarding, but it’s not even that that I’m thinking of.

I’m thinking of the person who doesn’t go to church but considers her religion to be 'Church of England'.  What about the man who is a solid establishment man, a Freemason and a member of the local government, invited to grand Cathedral events but otherwise never goes to church, nonetheless a ‘Christian’ and a keen supporter of the church.
What do these people believe about Jesus?
Substantially, in the end it is about the Bible and about reading the Bible!  It is about understanding what we read in the context of community, and that just isn’t part of most people’s experience, here in the UK today.

What can you do about it?  Well I’m not sure but going to the Big Bible website can’t be a bad start!
However this is only a beginning and in many ways it still doesn’t answer my question as the people I’m thinking of probably don’t know about the Big Bible project.  I still wonder what they believe about Christ’s redemptive work.


Thursday, 17 March 2011

To Erika.

Germany, Ebrach abbey, Pentecost MiracleImage via Wikipedia
OK I think I'm getting it, essentially you believe that God must treat us all the same and that His intervention, if any, must be equal in every way.  To suggest that God might not be 'impartial' would describe a God who is 'unfair'.  If that's it, then I can agree with you up to a point'.

However we are made in the image of God and have been given the attribute of consciousness and self determination (free will).  Our relationship with God, for me, is real and I am involved in how my relationship with God pans out.  If I sin, then I am further from God, as it were.  God loves me just the same, like the father of the prodigal son, but my sin doesn’t help.  In the same way that my love for God might lead me to ‘good works’ and that will draw me closer to him.  How we behave has a real effect on our relationship with God and on the quality of that relationship.

So we are all offered the same opportunity to be close to Him but we also have a choice in how we respond to His love.  We are indeed children of God but we are also able to choose to love or to reject Him, just like your children.  Without this possibility then we would be no higher than angels and the sacrifice of Christ would not have been necessary.

In the matter of prayer, or more specifically response to our prayer then I am unable to offer you either signs or arguments, as my original article was attempting to say, but I can offer some other thoughts in the light of your ‘hatred’ of the God I believe in.

The Bible is a notoriously difficult book insofar as we have to respond to ambiguity and contradiction that lies therein, however it is considered to be Holy and authoritative.  You and I have to read it and draw our own conclusions according to how we believe the Holy Spirit guides us.  If we also subscribe to membership of a particular ‘church’ then we may also owe some obedience to that Churches’ view of the Bible.  (This is perhaps a little contentious).

In my own understanding of the Bible and in line with general teaching regarding prayer by various Christian communities I believe that God does intervene in response to prayer.  I have no particular insight into how this works and why, as I have said earlier.

I don’t believe that this necessarily defines His action, in response to prayer as being unjust in relation to others.  Firstly situations are often so complex that reducing the argument to a comparison of ‘like with like’ is not, in my opinion, possible.  I guess I leave that to Him.

Secondly I don’t think that He started the ‘machine we call life’ and then left the building.  In other words I believe that He hears prayer and answers prayer in very real ways; ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

Thirdly I believe that we are called to help one another.  To reject prayer as a way of assisting others through intercessions in the ways I have suggested is, in my opinion, to limit prayer and at worse turn it into a self indulgent therapy session.

Finally I believe that God intervenes directly in this world and has done so throughout generations, but most spectacularly in His incarnation and in the miracles that Jesus did, and of course the resurrection of Christ.  Essentially God made the world and takes an active and continual part in it, throughout time.  Why one blind man might be healed rather than another?  Well I do believe Jesus was asked a similar question.

However I do agree with you that if this were to be elitist and preferential then it would be wrong, however this is available to us all.  Paul gave thanks for those who ‘knew Jesus in their hearts’ but had never heard of Him, and I believe the Holy Spirit will go wherever it will.  I believe that God is there for every child, and if we choose to turn to Him then he will respond unreservedly with real and practical love. But if we do not turn to Him then we are missing out.  Our choice.

I hope that this helps but I accept fully that this may not advance your understanding one jot, and for that matter it may simply reveal that I am foolish.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Jews seek Signs and Greeks seek Argument.

A man praying at a Japanese Shintō shrine.Image via Wikipedia
From time to time I don’t feel inspired and I think that I have nothing to say, in fact that’s how I’m feeling at the moment.  I was reading an article earlier that suggested that we should spend an hour, or half hour each day practicing being creative, no matter what, and perhaps that’s why I’m writing this article.

The truth is I feel deflated and I think it’s because of the dreadful news in Japan and for that matter the events recently in New Zealand, and on and on and on.

In an earlier post I alluded to MrC being involved in a national disaster and that is true, but somehow then I was able to do something and whilst I did suffer later, at the time I was active and ‘needed’, now I feel useless and saddened, deeply.  Perhaps I shouldn’t.

Lesley Fellows wrote an article about prayer, and I read it, it was okay but failed, for me, to accept that prayer does change things, ‘for real’, in a miraculous way if you like.  For me, prayer can, and does alter the laws of nature and does lead to ‘miracles’.  I’ve no idea when or how or why, but I believe it can.  For me it is an article of faith to believe that God can and does alter this sometimes machine like existence we call life.  For me this ‘truth’ is part of what the incarnation was and the resurrection continues to be about.

To pray to a god who cannot assist, cannot respond, is possibly personally edifying and maybe helpful for the health of the mind, but it is not adequate for me.

I saw a sign. It said “There is probably no God” and I thought, so it’s a matter of faith then.  The Jews seek Signs and Greeks seek argument.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

A trip in the cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral Gothic Revival Style, M...Image via Wikipedia
The intention to deceive is one that we live with in the UK constantly and it drives us to mistrust.  It is assumed today that you are a dishonest person here in the UK, at least by commerce and civil authorities a good deal of the time and it seems to me that it is an assumption that is gaining pace into other areas of our lives.

We have created a society that distrusts and so we have all sorts of checks and security information we need to remember, stuff our grandparents would have laughed at.  But then our world is a more complex one for us to live in and one that has given us international travel, the internet and greater wealth for many in the western world.

Yet in moments of crisis we were okay, at least then, when need was real and urgent we could be sure that people would put aside this mistrust and come to our aid.  Certainly that has been my experience, in helping out in a time of national disaster, that ordinary people have been generous and willing to help without question.

I said, ‘we were okay’ because today we could face mistrust in moments of trouble.  If you fall on the property of a cathedral, be aware that the apparent kindness of the designated first aider and her conspicuous over zealous reaction to a few bruises and scrapes, including the emergency blanket may be more to do with avoiding legal claims against the cathedral than concern for your injuries, or am I simply a mistrusting product of our age?


Thursday, 10 March 2011

Did Jesus sell toys to the Romans?

Map of Roman Palestine with the Decapolis citi...Image via WikipediaI was wondering if Jesus sold toys to the Romans?

What I mean is that He was a carpenter’s son and so He might have helped His Dad out and had a go at making wooden toys.  He lived near the Decapolis, the towns that were multicultural and more integrated with Roman ways.  And so voilà; Did Jesus sell toys to the Romans?

Either way it sheds light on His ministry and a good deal on the content of the Bible.  For example, the towns of the Decapolis minted their own coinage and I guess they were proud of the fact that they could.  Being aware of this in Jesus’ background makes the passage concerning the question of whose image was on the coin more interesting.

Jesus’ exposure to the more ‘liberal’ society of the Decapolis might also shed light on His message of forgiveness and getting along with one another better.  It is an interesting thought that God’s arrangement of the incarnation at that moment and in that place produced the man, Jesus and it may be that the Decapolis went some way to form His character.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Do you remember?

Groucho MarxCover of Groucho Marx
Karl Marx, I believe, said that ‘religion was the opiate of the masses’, but today, I believe, BBC Radio 2 is that opiate.

Now this is a most outrageous comment for me to make as I don’t listen to radio 2, but I have an impression of radio 2.  For those who are outside the UK then I suggest you think of any radio station that is a mix of inane chat and eclectic music of the popular variety.  I imagine we all comment on things we only have an impression of in reality.

I was thinking, last night, that if I had read half the books I possess then I would be a clever cat indeed, except that the ones I have read I hardly remember in any sort of detail.  Yet I will believe that I know something of Karl Marx and for that matter Groucho Marx, because I’ve read about them at some point in my life.

The truth is my memory isn’t that good and I am often surprised when I revisit a book and find that my ‘hero’ in it wasn’t all that good or that someone I thought was a villain, in fact did some good things after all.

For you it will be different, perhaps you remember most that you read or hear or see, but I’m guessing your more like me, forgetful and possessing a rather unreliable memory.

Well here’s the punch line.  It’s like that with the Bible and the things inside, so it’s a good idea to read it again, now and then.  Perhaps if we did then we might find more that we can agree on than that which divides us.