Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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An Observation

Schoolchildren in England went on strike today to protest against the pollution that has led to climate change. Afterwards, they were all picked up from their schools by their parents and driven home in gas-guzzling S.U.Vs.

Go figure!

Pastor Ditchwater Speaks Out

The appropriately named, Pastor Gary Dull, who leads the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, is doing his nut over Lansdale Public Library allowing drag queen, Annie Christ to read to children on the second of February this year. The book Annie chose was "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed," which is about a rat called Wilbur who is "different" from other rats because he likes to wear clothes.

"I'm actually a boy in a dress with a really, really big wig on and a lot, lot of makeup on," she told her audience.

Dull claims that "the LGBT goal is to remove all distinctions between male and female in the minds of children in order to convince them that they can change their own gender."

For Boob Jobs Make An Appointment With Doctor Jesus

Ghanaian female celebrity, Nana Frema has come out to share a surprising revelation about the origin of plastic surgery. The actress, who is one of the few to have publicly come out to disclose that she has undergone cosmetic surgery to gain a more curvy stature (see below), said that Jesus Christ was one of the first people to have performed plastic surgery during his time on earth.

In a recent interview, she said: "Jesus Christ did a plastic surgery. Somebody’s ears were cut off and he fixed it. It was surgery. God is the one who has given doctors the knowledge.”

Bigotry In Numbers

Muslims have been protesting outside Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham since the end of last month. They are angry that the school is insisting that the children are taught about equality, including LGBT equality.

One of the parents, Fatima Shah says she has taken her ten-year-old daughter out of the school over the lessons.

She told BirminghamLive: ‘It’s inappropriate, totally wrong. Children are being told it’s OK to be gay yet 98 per cent of children at this school are Muslim. It’s a Muslim community.’

This is the main reason I fear Islam or, to be exact, fear the numerical growth of its adherents in England. The larger the "Muslim community" becomes, the more influential it will become as the UK is a democracy. There will come a time, in fact, it may already have arrived, when politicians will offer Muslim voters concessions to their unenlightened and downright bigoted cultural beliefs in order to gain their support at the polls. At that point, human rights in the U.K., especially those concerning equality of women and LGBT people, will start to be eroded rather than strengthened.

Of course, there are LGBT Muslims and progressive Muslims and some do courageously speak out, but the truth is they are lost in the crowd. Nearly all Muslims in the UK are homophobic and they feel no shame in proclaiming their condemnation and hatred of LGBT people loudly and publicly.

A Day Off School

As I would have protested against free chocolate in order to get out of a few
lessons when I was at school, I would be more impressed by all these kids
taking to the streets of the U.K. today to call for action to stop climate change
if they were doing it on a Saturday rather than on a school day.

A Merciful Love That Knows No Bounds

From “Abounding in Kindness:
Writings for the People of God”
by Elizabeth A. Johnson, b.1941

The natural world is not only beautiful in its harmonies. It also presents us with an unrelentingly harsh and bloody picture, filled with suffering and death. Bodily existence requires eating; hence predation is an inescapable part of the pattern of biological life. On a grand scale, the history of life itself is dependent on death; without death, there would be no evolutionary development from generation to generation. The history of life is a story of suffering and death over millions of millennia. The temptation is to deny the violence and escape into a romantic view of the natural world. But there is another option, namely, to seek the Creator Spirit in the midst of pain.

To do so, theology performs a typical manoeuvre, taking its eyes off the immediate question to consult the gospel. Christian theology interprets Jesus as the Word and Wisdom of God, the one whose life, death and resurrection reveal the character of the living God.

What do we glimpse through this lens? A merciful love that knows no bounds, a compassion that enters into the depth of human beings’ lives of sin, suffering, and terrifying death, to bring new life. An ecological vision gives theology warrant to cross the species line and extend this divine solidarity to all creatures. The Spirit of God dwells in compassionate solidarity with every living being that suffers, from the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroid to the baby impala eaten by a lioness. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without eliciting a knowing suffering in the heart of God, who constantly works to renew the face of the earth.

Such an idea is not meant to glorify suffering, a trap that must be carefully avoided. But it works out an implication of the vivifying Spirit's relation to an evolutionary, suffering world with an eye to divine compassion. Nature's crying out is met by the Spirit who groans with the labour pains of all creation to bring the new to birth (Rom 8:22—23). Thus is the pattern of cross and resurrection found at work on a cosmic scale.

Love Banned In Somaliland

Some leading Muslim clerics in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have urged their followers not to celebrate Valentine's Day, saying it is contrary to the teachings of Islam. The clerics made similar appeals in previous years, but have been more vocal in their opposition this year.

Some people disagree with them, arguing that celebrating love has always been part of the culture of Somalis and one of their most celebrated poets, Elmi Bodheri, is said to have died of love.

But the Muslim clerics still object because the day gets its name from Saint Valentine Card, a Christian priest from Rome in the third century AD.

In response, the pope has instructed faithful Catholics not to eat couscous, falafel balls, halva or hummus because of their Arabic connections. Furthermore, a papal bull issued by the Vatican today imposes an automatic excommunication on anybody going for a kebab on their way home from the pub. It is harsh but a price that is surely worth paying to save your immortal soul from spending eternity in hell with all those lovestruck Somali Muslims.

Exchanging Glances With God

From a catechesis on the “Lord’s Prayer”
by Pope Francis, b. 1936

Jesus said: when you pray, enter into the silence of your room, withdraw from the world, and address God, calling him “Father”! Jesus wants his disciples not to be like the hypocrites who pray standing up in the squares to be admired by the people (cf. Mt 6: 5). Jesus does not want hypocrisy. True prayer is that which is carried out in the secrecy of the conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God. It shuns falsehood: with God, it is impossible to pretend. It is impossible, before God there is no trick that has power, God knows us in this way, naked in the conscience, and we cannot pretend. At the root of dialogue with God, there is a silent dialogue, like the exchange of glances between two people who love each other: man and God exchange glances, and this is prayer. Looking at God and letting oneself be looked at by God: this is prayer. Look at God and let yourself be looked at by him: it is a prayer, a beautiful prayer.

And yet, although the prayer of the disciple is entirely confidential, it never falls into self-centredness. In the secrecy of the conscience, the Christian does not leave the world outside the door of his room but brings into his heart people, situations, problems, many things.

There is a surprising absence in the text of the Lord’s Prayer. A word is missing. A word that in our times, but perhaps always, we all hold in great consideration. The word “I” is missing. Jesus teaches us to pray with the word “you” on our lips, first and foremost, because Christian prayer is dialogue: “hallowed be your name”, “your kingdom come, your will be done”. Not my name, my kingdom, my will. And then it passes to “we”. All the second part of the Lord’s Prayer is in the first person plural: “give us this day our daily bread”, “forgive us our trespasses”, “lead us not into temptation”, “deliver us from evil”. Even man’s most elementary requests, such as having food to dispel hunger, are all in the plural. In Christian prayer, no-one asks for bread for himself: we implore for all, for all the poor of the world. We must not forget this, the word “I” is missing. One prays with “you” and with “we”.

Why? Because there is no space for individualism in dialogue with God. There is no ostentation of one’s own problems as if we were the only ones to suffer in the world. There is no prayer raised to God that is not the prayer of a community of brothers and sisters. We are in a community, we are brothers and sisters, we are a people who pray, “we”.

In prayer, a Christian bears all the difficulties of the people who live next to him: when evening falls, he tells God of the sufferings he has encountered in that day; he places before him many faces, friends and also the hostile; he does not drive them away like dangerous distractions. If one does not realise that there are so many people around him that are suffering, if he does not pity the tears of the poor, if he is addicted to everything, then it means that his heart is wilted. No, worse: it is made of stone. In this case, it is good to beg the Lord to touch us with his Spirit and to soften our heart:

“Touch my heart, O Lord”. It is a beautiful prayer: “Lord, soften my heart so that I can understand and take charge of all the problems, all the pains of others."

Christ did not pass unharmed by the miseries of the world: whenever he perceived loneliness, a pain of the body or the spirit, he felt a strong sense of compassion, like a mother’s womb. This “feeling compassion” is one of the key verbs of the Gospel: it is what drives the good Samaritan to approach the wounded man on the roadside, unlike others who have a hardened heart.

We can ask ourselves: when I pray, do I open myself up to the cry of so many people, near and far or do I think of prayer as a form of anaesthesia, so as to be calmer? If the former, I would be the victim of a terrible error. Certainly, mine would no longer be a Christian prayer. Because that “we”, that Jesus taught us, prevents me from being in peace by myself, and it makes me feel responsible for my brothers and sisters.

Brothers and sisters, saints and sinners, we are all beloved brothers of the same Father. And, in the eventide of our life, we will be judged on love, on how we have loved. Not a love that is merely sentimental, but also compassionate and concrete, following the Gospel rule, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25: 40).

With Our Boots Firmly On The Ground

From “Pilgrim Theology:
Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples”
by Michael Horton, b. 1964

Although it is “the study of God,” theology has a reputation for being dry, abstract, and irrelevant for daily living. Many Christians assume that we can just experience God in a personal relationship apart from doctrine, but that’s impossible. You cannot experience God without knowing who he is, what he has done, and who you are in relation to him. Even our most basic Christian experiences and commitments are theological.

“I just love Jesus,” some say.

But who is Jesus? And why do you love him?

“I just try to live for the Lord.”

Is this Lord Yahweh, the Creator and Redeemer who reveals himself in Scripture, or an idol? What is this Lord like, what does he approve? What are his attributes? And is there any good news to report concerning this God’s actions in our history, or are you just trying to be a “good person”? What happens when you die? What’s the future of this world? These are not abstract questions, but questions that haunt our hearts and minds from childhood to old age. We can suppress these questions, but we cannot make them go away. Reality forces us to bump into them.

Today, especially in the West, most people tend to associate religion with the inner realm of the individual soul (mysticism) or with principles for individual or social behaviour (morality), or perhaps, though less often these days, with intellectual curiosity and speculation (philosophy). Mix elements of these three, mysticism, morality and philosophy, together and stir in a generous dose of pragmatism, and the result is an eclectic soup that is easy to swallow. The goal of life is often viewed as some form of personal or collective happiness. If a person can mix in a bit of wisdom from various other perspectives to spice things up, all the better!

The faith that springs from the Bible’s story of God is entirely different. We could even say that it has a different horizon. The triune God is the sun on this horizon, and we orient ourselves to this sun, not the other way around. Instead of starting with ourselves, our plans, purposes, dreams, and accomplishments, and seeking to learn how God can serve our goals and desires, we begin with God, who is life and who freely created, sustains, and directs history to his ends. In this strange new world of the Bible, religion is not something that I can use for my own fulfilment. I do not come to Christianity to find truths that confirm me and strengthen my resolve to live better, try harder, or make more of myself. Rather, when I encounter the God of the Bible I come to see that my very questions are skewed, badly ranked, and disordered even before I try to give my answers. In other words, the Bible is not primarily concerned with me and my quest for personal meaning and fulfilment. It’s a story about God, who is good enough to tell us about himself, about ourselves, and about this world, and to give us the true meaning of history. Yes, in the process of being swept away into this story, we do indeed find personal meaning and fulfilment for ourselves in ways that we could never have imagined, much less arranged. But we don’t get those things by starting with them. Instead, we need a compass to guide us.

A compass orients us. It helps us on our journey by helping us to grasp that the Bible is not chiefly about me and my personal experience or morality. Rather, it is the revelation of God and God’s history with us. Its relevance lies not in helping the pious individual to attain spiritual wellbeing, but in the way, it actually introduces us to reality. It is not a flight away from the world into the inner recesses of the soul, but a completely new existence within the world that God has made sustains, has redeemed, and will one day transform fully and forever into his everlasting home. The theology of the Bible leads us away from the high places of the religious, the moral and the spiritual specialists. It keeps our boots firmly on the ground. Instead of ascending to spiritual heights, we meet God in his gracious descent to us.

Witnessing To The Truth

From “The Peaceable Kingdom:
A Primer in Christian Ethics”
by Stanley Hauerwas, b. 1940

There is no more powerful indication of religion’s superfluity in our culture than Christianity’s acceptance of itself as one “religion” among others. It reveals an assumption of the priority of so-called “faith” over particular convictions of the Christian faith, e. g., the nature of God, the significance of Jesus, the eschatological fate of the world. As a result, Christianity, both in practice and in its sophisticated theological expression, is reduced to an interpretation of humanity’s need for meaning or some other provocative anthropological claim. I do not mean to deny that every theology involves anthropological claims, yet theology today has become particularly adept at beginning and ending there. More than before we substantiate the claim of (Ludwig) Feuerbach (1804-1872) that religion is but the projection of mankind’s hopes written large.

Those concerned with the ethical significance of Christian convictions are particularly prone to this kind of anthropologising of Christian theology. Acting on a suspicion that what is left of Christianity is its ethical component, they abstract the ethical from the religious in an effort to make Christianity relevant. Though such a strategy often appears theologically and ethically radical, it usually results in a restatement of the prevailing humanism in the name of religion.

Behind this form of modern religious apologetics lies the assumption that religion can have no hold on us unless it functions to underwrite our desires and ensure our ultimate happiness. There is, of course, a proper sense in which this is true since the conviction that the kingdom wrought in Christ is meant to fulfil our deepest and strongest desires is at the heart of Christianity. Insofar as we are God’s creatures his redemption is certainly the fulfilment of the natural. But unfortunately, we quickly trivialise this insight by seeking fulfilment without recognising that in order to know and worship God rightly we must have our desires transformed. They must be transformed, we must be trained to desire rightly, because, bent by sin, we have little sense of what it is that we should rightly want.

A no less serious result of this kind of reductionistic theology is the loss of a clear claim to the truth of Christian convictions. For there is no stronger indication of the modem religious situation than that we no longer know how or what it would mean to claim religious convictions as true. The less sure we are of the truth of our religious convictions, the more we consider them immune from public scrutiny. But in the process, we lose what seems essential to their being true, namely that we be willing to commend them to others. For the necessity of witness is not accidental to Christian convictions; it is at the heart of the Christian life. Those convictions cannot be learned except as they are attested to and exemplified by others. The essential Christian witness is neither to personal experience, nor to what Christianity means to “me,” but to the truth that this world is the creation of a good God who is known through the people of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Without such a witness we only abandon the world to the violence derived from the lies that devour our lives. There is, therefore, an inherent relation between truthfulness and peacefulness because peace comes only as we are transformed by a truth that gives us the confidence to rely on nothing else than its witness. A “truth” that must use violence to secure its existence cannot be truth. Rather the truth that moves the sun and the stars is that which is so sure in its power that it refuses to compel compliance or agreement by force. Rather it relies on the slow, hard, and seemingly unrewarding work of witness, a witness which it trusts to prevail even in a fragmented and violent world.

Double Exposure

South African gospel star and pastor Nkomfa Mkabile has been involved in an unholy war of words on social media this week following criticisms of his wife's choice of attire for their attendance of the State of the Nation Address in Cape Town.

The pastor's wife, Unathi Mkabile, rocked up on the red carpet wearing a blue dress that exposed her ample cleavage that many Facebook users deemed unsuitable. Most questioned why a pastor's wife was dressed in an "undignified manner".

But Nkomfa, who is also the founder of the Bethel International Ministries in Cape Town, came to his wife's defence, telling the haters to leave his wife alone as he did not see anything wrong with the dress. He questioned some of the haters' sexuality and he labelled some of the male detractors as rapists, telling them to stop focusing on his wife's breasts.

The (Un)Cooperative Bank

I'm having some dental work done tomorrow which will cost a bit more than what I have in my current account at the moment. I have a small emergency fund set aside in a limited access account which, so I cannot access it willy nilly, I have to go to a branch office to draw out. So, today I drove into town, went into my bank and asked them to transfer some of my savings to my current account. The cashier smiled at me and then told me that they couldn't do it because the link between the two accounts was "down" throughout the country and they didn't know when it would be repaired. I went home and rang my bank's head office only to be told they could do nothing either for the same reason. This is extremely embarrassing and I hate being embarrassed.

I remember the days when computers were not commonplace, not even in banks. I can think of no situation back then in which any bank would not be able to transfer any amount of money from one account to another and it would have all have done by hand and written down on paper. So, tell me, how exactly is what we have got now progress?

God Revealed

From “Theology for the Community of God” by Stanley J. Grenz

At the heart of the movement from a functional to an ontological understanding of Jesus’ unity with God is the Christian affirmation of his revelatory role (John 14:9-10). Jesus is the revealer of God. This affirmation facilitates the transition from functional to ontological Christology, because the statement “Jesus is the revealer of God” transcends the demarcation between function and ontology.

Revelation, of course, marks a functional connection between Jesus and God. The task of revealing God is a divine activity which Jesus carries out, for he is revealing the essence of God. But the task of revelation also carries ontological implications, insofar as the revealer cannot be separated from what is revealed. As a consequence of this connection, Jesus participates by necessity in the essential nature of the one he reveals. He must be ontologically one with God and share in the divine essence which he exemplifies.

The declaration “Jesus is the revealer of God” can actually carry two meanings. We may interpret it objectively. Hence, “Jesus is the revealer of God” means that in Jesus we find the essence of God pictured before us. In him we see God. Even if the picture is partial, it is nevertheless an accurate portrayal of God's essence. Jesus, then, is the embodiment of the divine essence, and therefore he is ontologically one with God.

As the revealer of God, Jesus mediates an objective picture of God throughout his entire earthly life and ministry. Each dimension of Jesus’ sojourn is revelatory. His teaching informs us about God; his character shows forth the qualities of God; his death reveals the suffering of God; and his resurrection vividly declares the creative power of God.

The central content of the picture Jesus mediates is that God is love. Through his life, teaching, death, and resurrection, Jesus shows us this dimension of the divine essence. Further, his life describes the qualities of that love. Above all, the divine love is salvific: it seeks the lost, suffers with the afflicted and redeems the fallen. God’s love is likewise jealous, as is evident in the picture of Jesus as the righteous Judge.

Not only may we interpret the declaration “Jesus is the revealer of God” objectively, it also has a subjective aspect. It means that Jesus is the one who seeks to introduce us to God (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). He desires that the divine character or godliness become a vital reality within and among us. This forms a link between the work of the Son and the Spirit. The activity of the Holy Spirit makes evident in our lives the qualities or character which Jesus vividly revealed to us as constituting the character of God. In this sense, Christ, the revealer of God, must be “formed” in us (Gal. 4:19). As this transpires, we truly become the image of God.

The declaration that Jesus is the revealer of God carries an important implication concerning God’s relationship to creation. It suggests that God is now the revealed God. Jesus’ coming inaugurated a qualitatively new state of affairs. Because Jesus has come, the veil has been pulled aside and the hidden God is forever manifested for all to see. Hence, he brought about the era of the revealed God.

Don’t Box God In ( God Does Not Like It )

From “The Sin of Certainty” by Peter Enns

Correct thinking provides a sense of certainty. Without it, we fear that faith is on life support at best, dead and buried at worst. And who wants a dead or dying faith? So this fear of losing a handle on certainty leads to a preoccupation with correct thinking, making sure familiar beliefs are defended and supported at all costs.

How strongly do we hold on to the old ways of thinking? Just recall those history courses where we read about Christians killing other Christians over all sorts of disagreements about doctrines few can even articulate today. Or perhaps just think of a skirmish you’ve had at church over a sermon, Sunday-school lesson, or which candidate to vote into public office.

Preoccupation with correct thinking. That’s the deeper problem. It reduces the life of faith to sentry duty, a 24/7 task of pacing the ramparts and scanning the horizon to fend off incorrect thinking, in ourselves and others, too engrossed to come inside the halls and enjoy the banquet. A faith like that is stressful and tedious to maintain. Moving toward different ways of thinking, even just trying it on for a while to see how it fits, is perceived as a compromise to faith, or as giving up on faith altogether. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Aligning faith in God and certainty about what we believe and needing to be right in order to maintain a healthy faith, these do not make for a healthy faith in God. In a nutshell, that is the problem. And that is what I mean by the “sin of certainty.”

It is sin because this pattern of thinking sells God short by keeping the Creator captive to what we are able to comprehend, which is the very same problem the Israelites had when they were tempted to make images of God (a.k.a. idols) out of stone, metal, or wood. For ancient people, images made the gods present for the worshippers, something tangible to look at to let them connect with the divine realm. But Israel's God said no. Any images shaped by human hands limit God by bringing God too far into alignment with ancient conceptions of the divine.

We don’t make physical images of God. But we do make mental ones.

I don’t mean that our thoughts of God are no different than images of wood and stone. The images we read about in the Bible always limit God, because they confuse the Creator with creation. Thoughts about God, on the other hand, are not only often helpful but downright inevitable. When we confuse God with our thoughts about God, however, those thoughts can become idol-like, getting in the way of the real thing, hindering rather than aiding a life of faith.

When we grab hold of “correct” thinking for dear life, when we refuse to let go because we think that doing so means letting go of God, when we dig in our heels and stay firmly planted even when we sense that we need to let go and move on, at that point we are trusting our thoughts rather than God. We have turned away from God's invitation to trust in order to cling to an idol.

The need for certainty is sin because it works off of fear and limits God to our mental images. And God does not like being boxed in. By definition, God can’t be. I believe we are prone to forget that.

Passing Thoughts Of A Hiphopophobe

Political correctness did not give rise to rap but it has probably enabled its persistence. If more people had felt confident enough to ridicule it early on in its existence, it might have died from embarrassment years ago. Instead, by patronisingly giving it exaggerated cultural importance out of fear of giving offence we have allowed at least two generations of young black men to believe that thuggishly talking about the size of their pricks whilst objectifying all women as gagging-for-it prostitutes over the same old stolen beats, is not only acceptable but actually clever and an appropriate expression of black culture and aspiration.

Queen Sabbath

From “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” by Marva J. Dawn

One of the reasons that I am so attracted to the Jewish observance of the Sabbath day is that throughout the history of Judaica there has been an emphasis on the beauty of the day, especially in the concept of Queen Sabbath, for whom the house is made ready and all things are intended to be lovely. In a society such as ours, scarred by hatred and violence, there is a tremendous need for great intentionality concerning beauty.

The Jewish liturgy for Sabbath eve includes the lovely hymn ”Lechah Dodi" ("Come, My Beloved”), composed by Solomon Alkabetz in Salonica, Turkey, in the 1500s to welcome the beautiful Sabbath Queen. The hymn also charges humankind to administer the creation in a godly manner. Other table hymns, called Zemirot, used for Jewish family times of worship, focus on the desire of every creature to praise the Creator. The Sabbath itself encourages God’s people to discover the secrets of the creation and especially to refrain from even the smallest work which would deny that God is the creator and master of the world. By observing a day of holiness and refraining from activity, we imitate the Creator and enter into his Sabbath rest.

When we Christians rest as if all our work were done, we celebrate God's creative and redemptive accomplishments on our behalf. Knowing that God is the perfect creator, we spend the day delighting in the beauties of his creation and thereby growing in our love for the master designer and craftsman.

Observing the Sabbath gives us the opportunity to be as careful as we can to fill our lives with beauty and to share beauty with the world around us. When we observe a day specially set apart for beauty, all the rest of life is made more beautiful. That truth is illustrated by Monet’s painting entitled “Spring through the Blossoms.” The canvas is entirely filled with white-flowered trees except for one bright-red roof in the centre of the composition. Our eyes are immediately drawn to that roof, and its brilliance makes us more aware of the loveliness of the trees. In the same way, focusing on beauty on one day causes us to notice it on the other six days of the week. The Sabbath becomes a garden park in the midst of the technicisation of life; it brings us tranquillity and intimacy, sensitivity and creativity, butterflies and goldfinches and roses.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

Liam Neeson is honest and open about what it is actually like to be a human being, our primal urges plus our ability to turn our back on them, and the liberal media are trying to cast him as a racist monster in order to promote their black versus white agenda. Heck, they have even managed to get his red carpet event cancelled. In the thought-controlled epoch we are living through, it is obviously a lot safer to lie, or at least stay shtum than to dare to tell the truth if the truth does not fit in with Western society's current narrative.

Proclamation By Demonstration

From “God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict” by Gregory A. Boyd

Just as our redemption is a feature of Christ’s broader cosmic accomplishments, so too the church’s passion to save individuals should be a feature of our burden to manifest Christ’s victory over his cosmic foes in all areas of life. For example, since part of God’s goal all along has been to restore humans to their rightful place as caring (not tyrannising) stewards of the earth, since Christ has in principle accomplished this by freeing us from the lordship of Satan, and since the restoration of nature is throughout scripture understood to be one dimension of God's eschatological vision, the church can hardly dismiss ecological concerns as being outside the parameters of its “spiritual” interests. Quite the contrary, through prayer and activism we are called to “curse the curse” and to free the earth from all forms of spiritual and physical destructive oppression, or rather to manifest the truth that the earth is in principle already freed from such oppression. The corrupted angelic guardians of nature have been defeated, and it is time for the church to proclaim it.

So too, since Christ has in principle defeated the fallen “gods” (principalities and powers) who have for ages inspired injustice, cruelty and apathy toward the weak, the poor, the oppressed and the needy (Ps. 82), the church can hardly carry out its role in manifesting, on earth and in heaven, Christ’s victory over these gods without taking up as a central part of its mission just these causes. We can, in truth, no more bifurcate social concerns and individual salvation than we can bifurcate the cosmic and anthropocentric dimensions of Christ’s work on the cross.

To cite one more example, if Christ on the cross has in fact torn down the racial wall of separation that divided people-groups (Eph 2:11-22), and if his Spirit now seeks to manifest this by reversing the effects of the catastrophe at the tower of Babel (Acts 2:5- 12), then the church has no choice but to seek to manifest this reality as intensely as we have sought to manifest the reality that the forgiveness for our individual sins was purchased on the cross. In other words, that racism has ended ought to be as demonstrable in the church, to our culture and in the face of the (now defeated) spiritual powers of racism, as is the gospel truth that personal condemnation has ended.

This is our part in spiritual war. We proclaim Christ’s truth by praying it, speaking it and (undoubtedly most importantly) by demonstrating it. We are not to accept with serene pious resignation the evil aspects of our world as “coming from a father’s hand.” Rather, following the example of our Lord and Saviour, and going forth with the confidence that he has in principle already defeated his (and our) foes, we are to revolt against the evil aspects of our world as coming from the devil’s hand. Our revolt is to be broad, as broad as the evil we seek to confront, and as broad as the work of the cross we seek to proclaim. Wherever there is destruction, hatred, apathy, injustice, pain or hopelessness, whether it concerns God’s creation, a structural feature of society, or the physical, psychological or spiritual aspect of an individual, we are in word and deed to proclaim to the evil powers that be, “You are defeated." As Jesus did, we proclaim this by demonstrating it.

The Perfect Community

From “Holy Trinity, Perfect Community” by Leonardo Boff

The monarchical conception of power has been the one that has most deeply marked the church and how it arranges the distribution of power among its members. Pre-trinitarian or non-trinitarian monotheism has weighed more heavily here than trinitarian thinking. Even today it is said that, just as there is one God, just as there is one Christ, so there ought to exist on earth one sole official representative of Christ: the pope for the whole church, the bishop for the diocese, the pastor for the parish and the coordinator for the base community. A great deal of power is thereby being concentrated in a single figure. In relating to others such persons inevitably assume a paternalistic attitude and a handout mindset. Those wielding power feel invested with huge responsibilities, for they must represent God before others, wielding this power for the sake of others and for their eternal salvation. They will do everything for the people and, as only they are God’s official representatives, they are unlikely to act with the people or out of the people. Thus, they cease to recognise and value the intelligence of the people, their experience of faith, their ability to evangelise and their character as also representing God and Christ. This monarchical practice is likely to give rise to authoritarianism matched by subservience. There is a shift from a church-as-communion-of-believers, all equal and sharing responsibility, to a church-as- society, with unequal distribution of functions and tasks.

If, however, we take as our starting point that the Blessed Trinity is the perfect community and that the communion of the divine three makes them one God, then we will see another type of church emerge. It is fundamentally community. Each one has his or her own characteristics and gifts, but all live for the good of all. There arises a community with diversities that are respected and valued as an expression of the wealth of community of the Trinity itself. Each one, insofar as he or she creates community and becomes part of that communion, represents the Blessed Trinity. In the Trinity what unites the divine three is the communion among them and the complete self-giving of one person to the others. The same thing ought. to happen in the church. It. is by overcoming the centralisation of power and distributing it among all that dynamic unity emerges, reflecting trinitarian union.

When the church forgets the source that gives it birth, the communion of the three divine persons, it allows its unity to become uniformity; it lets one group of believers by itself assume all responsibilities, keeping others from participating; it allows its confessional interests to prevail over the interests of the reign; in short, the river of bright waters is in danger of becoming a stagnant pond. We must be converted to the Trinity to recover diversity and communion, which create the dynamic unity that is ever open to new enrichment.

Let This Body Die

From “Tomorrow's Child” by Rubem Alves

We need a fresh start. We need to rebuild civilisation upon a new foundation. It is not enough that we become fatter. Our world needs a new body; it must be regenerated in the etymological sense of the word, be created again. The old body must die if life is to be preserved in a new one. For man‘s body is much more than his own limited organism; it is the whole civilisation we have created in order to make existence possible. Biblical language affirms that for life to be preserved, the body, which has grown old and senile, which has ceased to be an instrument for the expression of life and now functions to repress it, must be dissolved. It has to die. This is what gives life a chance to create a new body for itself. It is then resurrected in another form. Society, organisation, civilisation, culture: these are our limbs, the extensions of our biological structure. They have become oppressive and repressive: they act counter to the groaning of life for freedom and expression. The faster they grow. the greater the repression. This body must be dissolved if life is to have a chance to create a new one. We have to go through death and resurrection. We need to be born again.

To let this body die is to dissolve the rules of life as they have been established by past generations. The dead must not rule the world of the living. And only beyond the dissolution of the old. now hopelessly enmeshed in its internal contradictions. can a new synthesis be created.

As Those That Expect To See Their Messiah

From “The Apology of Aristides” (written circa 124–125 AD)

Now the Christians, O king, by going about and seeking have found the truth, and as we have comprehended from their writings they are nearer to the truth and to exact knowledge than the rest of the peoples. For they know and believe in God, the maker of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things: he who has no other god as his fellow: from whom they have received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, which they keep in the hope and expectation of the world to come; so that on this account they do not commit adultery nor fornication, they do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs: they honour father and mother; they do good to those who are their neighbours, and when they are judges they judge uprightly; and they do not worship idols in the form of man; and whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they do not practise towards any one, and they do not eat of the meats of idol sacrifices, for they are undefiled: and those who grieve them they comfort, and make them their friends; and they do good to their enemies: and their wives, O king, are pure as virgins, and their daughters modest: and their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world: but as for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them have any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction brethren: they do not worship strange gods: and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another: and from the widows they do not turn away their countenance: and they rescue the orphan from him who does him violence: and he who has gives to him who has not, without grudging; and when they see the stranger they bring him to their dwellings, and rejoice over him as over a true brother; for they do not call brothers those who are after the flesh, but those who are in the spirit and in God: but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.

And if there is among them a man that is poor or needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food. And they observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah: they live honestly and soberly, as the Lord their God commanded them: every morning and at all hours on account of the goodnesses of God toward them they praise and laud him: and over their food and over their drink they render him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from the world they rejoice and give thanks to God, and they follow his body, as if he were moving from one place to another: and when a child is born to any one of them, they praise God, and if again it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And if again they see that one of their number has died in his iniquity or in his sins, over this one they weep bitterly and sigh, as over one who is about to go to punishment: such is the ordinance of the law of the Christians, O king, and such their conduct.

As men who know God, they ask from him petitions which are proper for him to give and for them to receive: and thus they accomplish the course of their lives. And because they acknowledge the goodnesses of God towards them, lo! on account of them there flows forth the beauty that is in the world. And truly they are of the number of those that have found the truth by going about and seeking it, and as far as we have comprehended, we have understood that they only are near to the knowledge of the truth.

But the good deeds which they do, they do not proclaim in the ears of the multitude, and they take care that no one shall perceive them, and hide their gift, as he who has found a treasure and hides. And they labour to become righteous as those that expect to see their Messiah and receive from him the promises made to them with great glory.

Bad Prophets Are A Snare Of Ruin

From “The Book of Pastoral Rule” by Pope Gregory I

There are some who investigate spiritual precepts with great care but trample upon what they analyse by the way in which they live. Hastily they showcase what they have learned, not by practice but by study. And the very words that they preach, they impugn by their habits.

Just as when a shepherd walks on steep ground, the flock follows him to the precipice, so too the Lord, through the prophet, laments the contemptible knowledge of pastors, saying: “When you drank the clearest water, you troubled the rest with your feet; and my sheep were nourished with that which you trampled with your feet and they drank that which your feet troubled.”

Indeed, pastors “drink the clearest water” when, with an accurate understanding, they imbibe the streams of truth. But the same “disturb the water with their feet” when they corrupt the study of holy meditation with an evil life. Obviously, the sheep drink that which was muddied by feet when, as subjects, they do not attend to the words that they hear but imitate only the depraved examples that they observe. While the laity thirst for what is said, they are perverted by the pastor’s works as if they were to drink mud from a polluted fountain.

Consequently, it is written: “Bad prophets are a snare of ruin.”

Likewise, the Lord speaks again of evil priests through the prophet: “They were a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel.”

No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and acts perversely. This is because no layperson presumes to refute the delinquent. Moreover, because such a sinner is honoured by the dignity of his rank, his offences spread considerably by way of example.

And yet everyone who is unworthy would flee from such a great burden of guilt if, with the attentive ear of the heart, he pondered the saying of the Truth: “He that scandalises one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone was hung around his neck and that he was cast into the depth of the sea.”

Indeed, the “millstone” symbolises the circuitousness and labour of the secular life, and the “depth of the sea" suggests final damnation. Whoever, therefore, gives off the appearance of sanctity but destroys another by his words or example, it would be better for him that his earthly acts, demonstrated by worldly habits, would bind him to death than for his sacred office to be a source for the imitation of vice in another. Indeed, his punishment in hell would be less terrible if he fell alone.

Do As I Say Or I’ll Shoot Myself In The Foot

The "Irish Backstop," has been designed by the EU to make it impossible for the UK to impose a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is of extreme importance to the EU, and especially the Republic of Ireland, that the border remains open. Many British MPs do not like the fact that there is no limit on this backstop because it binds the UK to EU laws for as long as it is in place. So, Theresa May has been charged by the British Parliament to go back to the EU to renegotiate this part of "the deal" so that the permanent imposition of the backstop is not possible. The EU is currently saying that it will not renegotiate and that the Irish Backstop has to stay. If it stays then it is almost certain that the British Parliament will not agree to the deal and we will automatically leave the EU without any deal on the twenty-ninth of March this year. This would mean an immediate hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is the last thing the EU wants. It would appear that the EU is threatening the UK with doing the thing it doesn't want to happen. Surely that is just plain daft.

Beyond The Literal Meaning Of Scripture

From “Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation
of the Son of God" by Maximus the Confessor

So long as we only see the Logos of God as embodied multifariously in symbols in the letter of holy scripture, we have not yet achieved spiritual insight into the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Father as he exists in the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Son, according to the saying, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father” and “I am in the Father and the Father in Me” (John 14:9-10). We need much knowledge so that, having first penetrated the veils of the sayings which cover the Logos, we may with a naked intellect see, in so far as men can, the pure Logos, as he exists in himself, clearly showing us the Father in himself. Hence a person who seeks God with true devotion should not be dominated by the literal text, lest he unwittingly receives not God but things appertaining to God; that is, lest he feels a dangerous affection for the words of scripture instead of for the Logos. For the Logos eludes the intellect which supposes that it has grasped the incorporeal Logos by means of His outer garments, like the Egyptian woman who seized hold of Joseph’s garments instead of Joseph himself (cf. Gen. 39:7-13), or like the ancients who were content merely with the beauty of visible things and mistakenly worshipped the creation instead of the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25).

It is by means of the loftier conceptual images that the inner principle of Holy Scripture can be stripped gradually of the complex garment of words with which it is physically draped. Then to the visionary intellect (the intellect which through the total abandonment of its natural activities is able to attain a glimpse of the simplicity that in some measure discloses this principle), it reveals itself as though in the sound of a delicate breeze.

When our intellect has shaken off its many opinions about created things, then the inner principle of truth appears clearly to it, providing it with a foundation of real knowledge and removing its former preconceptions as though removing scales from the eyes, as happened in the case of Saint Paul (cf. Acts 9:18). For an understanding of scripture that does not go beyond the literal meaning, and a view of the sensible world that relies exclusively on sense-perception, are indeed scales, blinding the soul’s visionary faculty and preventing access to the pure Logos of truth.

The Harmony Of Creation

From "An Exact Exposition Of The Orthodox Faith" by John of Damascus.

The very harmony of creation, its preservation and governing, teach us that there is a God who has put all this together and keeps it together, ever maintaining it and providing for it. For how could such contrary natures as fire and water, earth and air, combine with one another to form one world and remain undissolved, unless there was some all-powerful force to bring them together and always keep them that way?

What is it that has ordered the things of heaven and those of earth, the things which move through the air and those which move in the water; nay, rather, the things which preceded them: heaven and earth and the natures of fire and water? What is it that combined and arranged them? What is it that set them in motion and put them on their unceasing and unhindered courses? Or is it that they had no architect to set a principle in them all by which the whole universe be moved and controlled? But who is the architect of these things? Or did not he who made them also bring them into being? We shall certainly not attribute such power to spontaneity. Even grant that they came into being spontaneously; then, whence came their arrangement? Let us grant this, also, if you wish. Then, what maintains and keeps the principles by which they subsisted in the first place? It is most certainly some other thing than mere chance. What else is this, if it is not God?

The Divine Information Superhighway

I believe in a God who deals with things as they are. I do not believe in the magical or supernatural. I do believe in those things that God does that we call miraculous. However, I believe they are achieved in a scientifically possible way. Central to my thinking is the concept that everything is made up of information and vitally so in respect to life. The miraculous, as I have written before, is the rearrangement of information. In the same way that a child may take a Lego model of a house to pieces and then make a robot out of those pieces, God may reduce matter to its basic blocks of information and then build them into something new. By far the most important example of this is the resurrection of the body. Physics tells us that information cannot be destroyed. It persists and will do forever. Therefore, the bringing back together of the blocks of information that make up our lives, our memories and experiences, our consciousness, to recreate us in a new place within the cosmos at any point of time beyond our deaths is a scientific possibility; much more so than souls, which we cannot scientifically observe, leaving our dead bodies to exist in a world we cannot scientifically observe.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

There is a point at which recognising diversity becomes condescension. Giving a film a top award when it is obviously nowhere near the best film of the year actually makes matters worse in the long run. Perhaps there should be a specific politically correct award ceremony each year running alongside ceremonies that give recognition to the films and performances that actually are among the best. That way, people in the film industry who win an award will know why they actually won it. In this era of heightened sensitivity, nobody knows if their award is for how they did their job or for the betterment of humankind, which makes the award worthless.

Believe In Order To Understand

From “Proslogion” by Anselm of Canterbury.

Come now, insignificant man! Flee, for a little while, your occupations; hide, for a time, from your disturbing thoughts. Cast aside, now, your burdensome cares and put away your toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God and such as can aid you in seeking him; close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, “I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalms xxvii. 8). And come now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what marks, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your form. What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from you? What shall your servant do, anxious in his love of you, and cast out afar from your face? He pants to see you, and your face is too far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find you and knows not your place. He desires to seek you and does not know your face. Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. It is you that has made me, and has made me anew, and has bestowed upon me all the blessing I enjoy, and not yet do I know you. Finally, I was created to see you, and not yet have I done that for which I was made.

Be it mine to look up to your light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek you and reveal yourself to me, when I seek you, for I cannot seek you, except you teach me, nor find you, except you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you in love, and love you in finding. Lord, I acknowledge and I thank you that you have created me in this your image, in order that I may be mindful of you, may conceive of you and love you; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that for which it was made, except you renew it, and create it anew. I do not endeavour, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, that unless I believed, I should not understand.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

I spent an hour or so this afternoon checking out recently published books.
There are a plethora of books written by women, aimed at women, about
"what it is like to be a woman."

Now I would have thought most women would know what it is like to be a
woman already, what with them being women and all that. But, no. It
appears women have an insatiable appetite for reading about what it is
like to be women.

Men have no interest whatsoever in reading about what it is really like to be
a man. Reality sucks. We prefer to read books about what it is like to be the
sort of men we, in our wilder dreams, imagine ourselves to be.

By Love Alone

From “On Union with God” by Albertus Magnus

All that we have hitherto described, all that is necessary for salvation, can find in love alone its highest, completest, most beneficent perfection.

Love supplies all that is wanting for our salvation; it contains abundantly every good thing and lacks not even the presence of the supreme object of our desires.

It is by love alone that we turn to God, are transformed into his likeness, and are united to him, so that we become one spirit with him, and receive by and from him all our happiness: here in grace, hereafter in glory. Love can find no rest till she reposes in the full and perfect possession of the beloved.

It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws nigh to man, and man to God, but where charity is not found God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity we possess God, for "God is charity."

There is nothing keener than love, nothing more subtle, nothing more penetrating. Love cannot rest till it has sounded all the depths and learnt the perfections of its beloved. It desires to be one with him, and, if it could, would form but one being with the beloved. It is for this reason that it cannot suffer anything to intervene between it and the object loved, which is God, but springs forward towards him, and finds no peace till it has overcome every obstacle, and reached even unto the beloved.

Love has the power of uniting and transforming; it transforms the one who loves into him who is loved, and him who is loved into him who loves. Each passes into the other, as far as it is possible.

And first consider the intelligence. How completely love transports the loved one into him who loves! With what sweetness and delight the one lives in the memory of the other, and how earnestly the lover tries to know, not superficially but intimately, all that concerns the object of his love, and strives to enter as far as possible into his inner life!

Think next of the will, by which also the loved one lives in him who loves. Does he not dwell in him by that tender affection, that sweet and deeply-rooted joy which he feels? On the other hand, the lover lives in the beloved by the sympathy of his desires, by sharing his likes and dislikes, his joys and sorrows, until the two seem to form but one. Since "love is strong as death," it carries the lover out of himself into the heart of the beloved and holds him prisoner there.

The soul is more truly where it loves than where it gives life since it exists in the object loved by its own nature, by reason and will; whilst it is in the body it animates only by bestowing on it an existence which it shares with the animal creation.

There is, therefore, but one thing which has power to draw us from outward objects into the depths of our own souls, there to form an intimate friendship with Jesus. Nothing but the love of Christ and the desire of his sweetness can lead us thus to feel, to comprehend and experience the presence of his divinity.

The power of love alone is able to lift up the soul from earth to the heights of Heaven, nor is it possible to ascend to eternal beatitude except on the wings of love and desire.

Love is the life of the soul, its nuptial garment, its perfection.

Upon charity are based the law, the prophets, and the precepts of the Lord. Hence the Apostle wrote to the Romans: "Love is therefore the fulfilling of the law," and in the first epistle to Timothy: "The end of the commandment is charity."

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

It's one heck of a moral dilemma. The government shutdown in the United States is causing immeasurable suffering to the government workers who have not been paid since it began. On the other hand, it is putting off the agony of another Trump State of the Nation address. It is choices like this that really test one's commitment to Christian charity.

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