Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A Higher Power: Intelligent Falling

Some may have seen this before, but it's new to me...
I particularly like the explanation of Rev. 12.9.
Intelligent Falling

Monday, 29 September 2008

Credit Crunch

Pastor Iain gives what strikes me as a helpful opinion on the current 'Credit Crunch'. Here's my response to his post:
A useful biblical perspective on all this can be found in the book of Revelation, where John offers his first century Roman readers a social/political/economic critique of the empire under which they were living.
John invites those in the churches he is writing to, to realise that Rome is not all it's cracked up to be, and he asks them to see through the glittering propoganda of empire, and to realise that it's actually a violent and oppressive beast, a corrupt and corrupting whore.
John then depicts in vivid language the destruction of this empire which has grown rich and fat by devouring the nations of the world for its own gain. The empire is portrayed as an ultimately self-destructive system, which consumes and consumes to the point where it consumes itself through its own greed and corruption.
John then offers those in his churches a choice: Are they going to mourn the passing of the empire, weeping and wailing as its systems collapse around them, or are they going to see its passing as the enacted judgment of God?
John's theological perspective is clear - he says the people of God should rejoice as the empire falls. Not rejoicing at the personal hurt which the empire inflicts on those it takes with it as it tumbles, but rather rejoicing that the oppressive and destructive system which appeared so eternal is actually passing into history.
The next question which John offers his readers is that of what they will construct next? Will they allow the world to reinvent Rome (or Babylon, or Communism, or Global Capitalism, or whatever)? Or will they offer to the world and alternative way of being human?
The vision of the New Jerusalem represents God's alternative city come to the earth through the church. It is a city which runs on godly rather than satanic economics, it is a city which is good news to all nations, good news to creation. It is the 'kingdom come, on earth as in heaven', to quote Jesus.
So - as the modern Rome totters, as its conspicuous consumption turns inwards in judgment, John's question to the church remains the same: How will we respond? What will we build?

Friday, 19 September 2008

The sacrament of the 'other'

A thought from tonight's Anabaptist Network:

Q. How do we encounter God in the 'other'?
A. Sacramentally.
  • It is not that we meet God in the 'other'.
  • Nor is it that we bring God to the encounter with the 'other'.
  • Rather, it is as we encounter the 'other' that God is present.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Unusually for me, some positive reflections following a quiet day...

It is the pauses
in the rhythm
that define the beat.
But half an hour
of silence?
Long enough?
Too long?
Too quiet?
Too loud?
The sound
of sheer silence.
A deafening hush.
The Word spoken
through words

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Lollipop Shoes and the nature of evil

I’ve just finished reading Joanne Harris’ new novel The Lollipop Shoes, the long awaited sequel to the excellent Chocolat. I’ve enjoyed all her books, with her sensual style evoking worlds which are truly compelling. It has often been observed that the book Chocolat was more spiritually alert than the film – with the character of the priest becoming the mayor in the film, thus downplaying the great chocolaterie-church conflict in the run-up to Easter. In The Lollipop Shoes the spiritual battle continues, but with the church less obviously present. This time it is the run-up to Christmas, which is portrayed largely as a pagan festival. Once again Vianne is the agent of grace, the mother who seeks to protect her children yet also to give them freedom, the holy matriarch. The chocolaterie is once again the battle ground where good meets evil, as the magic of chocolat is wielded by both sides, with its power to both seduce and resist. What struck home to me was the seductive nature of evil; how easily we humans can be beguiled and flattered by the forces which seek to destroy us. The closing sentences of the book, spoken by the agent of destruction, sound a warning note: ‘Who am I now? Who could I be? I could be the next person you meet walking down the street. I could be standing behind you at the supermarket checkout. I could be your new best friend. I could be anyone. I could be you – I’m a free spirit, don’t forget – And I go wherever the wind takes me.’

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Thoughts about judgment and faith

At BNTC in Durham, John Barclay said:
  • 'There is no judgment without mercy, and there is no mercy without judgment'
  • '"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy" [Rom. 9.15] doesn't mean, for Paul, "I'll wait for them to repent" but "I'll change them."'
He also offered the following definition of faith:
  • Faith is the recognition that there is no way anything in the human condition can generate justification. In this way, it is a negative criterion, and it's consequence is that justification through faith is entirely of God
This alleviates the problem of faith becoming a work:
  • Faith is not a human virtue, Rather it is a recognition of the total lack of human virtue.
  • Abraham is justified by faith not because he has faith, but because of what he has faith in; namely, the undeserved mercy of God.

Finishing things is a nice feeling

I've just sent off my paper 'Can the Book of Revelation be a Gospel for the Environment?' for publication. It's not that I don't want to see it again, but for now I'm glad to be rid of it. I originally presented it at the Bible and Justice conference in Sheffield in May, and then again last week at the British New Testament Conference in Durham. It'll be appearing in M. J. M. Coomber (Ed.) Bible and Justice: Ancient Texts, Modern Challenges, London: Equinox Publishing Ltd.
Whilst I'm on publications, I see that another book I've got a chapter in is now listed for pre-order on Amazon. W. J. Lyons & ├śkland, J. (Eds.) The Way the World Ends? The Apocalypse of John in Culture and Ideology, Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press.
Now to those module handbooks...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Starting new things is a brilliant distraction from administration

Two blogs started in two days! This momentum won't last... One day soon I'm going to have to write some module handbooks.
See http://southwalesbaptists.blogspot.com/

Monday, 8 September 2008

Populist Millennialism

I'm interested to see that the BBC 'most read' today is on millennialism: