Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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A Very Present Salvation

From “Past Event and Present Salvation:
The Christian Idea of Atonement”
by Paul S. Fiddes, b.1947

Salvation happens here and now. It is always in the present that God acts to heal and reconcile, entering into the disruption of human lives at great cost to himself, in order to share our predicament and release us from it. This may seem obvious, and if we examine the hymns of popular piety we can often detect just such an appeal to a present experience of atonement, expressed in phrases like “Jesus saves.” It is ironic, however, that when this devotion has been translated into sermons it has often emerged as more equivalent to “Jesus saved.” For there is a great deal of difference between believing that God “saves” through Christ, and believing that we simply claim the benefits of a salvation that has already happened, a deal that has already been concluded. Salvation in the present tense has frequently been depicted as if it were merely picking up a ticket to paradise which was issued long ago, and which has been waiting through long ages on the counter of a celestial travel agent. But a transactional view of atonement like this is highly impersonal. If salvation is the healing of a broken relationship between persons, then it must actually happen now; it must involve the human response as an intimate part of the act of atonement.

To believe in a saviour God is to affirm that he is always saving, always participating in the pain of an estranged world to win back rebels. Salvation is a continuous process. If, as Christians believe, the focal point of salvation is the cross of Jesus Christ, then the cross is a contemporary event as well as past history. A first clue which points towards this insight is the nature of the realm of personal relations. Therapy using psychological analysis has made it abundantly clear that to restore a relationship requires the deepest cooperation of the one who is alienated, even if one had failed to realise this from the everyday experience of family life. A healing of relationship and personality cannot be accepted like a package, a ticket or even a contract. It must be created anew through the meeting of persons. Applied to a doctrine of reconciliation between God and humanity this means that human response must actually be part of the act of salvation, not merely a reaction to it afterwards. This principle is perhaps demonstrated most vividly in the experience of forgiveness and some grasp of the dynamics of any act of forgiveness is fundamental to an understanding of atonement.

The record of early Christian preaching in the “Acts of the Apostles” associates the death of Jesus with “the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), and this is also at the heart of Paul’s preaching of the cross of Jesus. Even though Paul rarely uses the actual term ‘forgiveness‘, the concept of “justification” carries the same content of having a relationship with God restored, and being accepted by him. It is tragic then that this profound experience of forgiveness has often been reduced in Christian doctrine and preaching to the idea of a mere legal pardon. Popular evangelistic preaching has often, for example, depicted a prisoner languishing in a condemned cell on the eve of execution, and then suddenly receiving a free pardon from the monarch or president. All the prisoner needs to do, it is urged, is to accept what is offered. But this legal illustration (as well as being out of date in societies today such as Britain which no longer have capital punishment) loses the personal nature of forgiveness, and when transferred to God it evacuates love from his activity. The picture of a pardoned criminal fails to communicate the painful relational experience which lies at the heart of forgiving and being forgiven. The mere issue of a notice of pardon cannot touch a person deeply; in life a prisoner can accept a pardon and go free, hating the authorities who gave it and the judge who sentenced him, or perhaps laughing at them. Such a legal transaction comes close in tone to the words of the poet Heine as he lay dying that God would, of course, forgive him, for “it's his business.” But forgiveness is no business, even a legal business. Much more profound is the insight of the theologian H. R. Mackintosh, that:

“We are constantly under a temptation to suppose that the reason why we fail to understand completely the atonement made by God in Christ is that our minds are not sufficiently profound. But there is a deeper reason still. It is that we are not good enough; we have never forgiven a deadly injury at a price like this, at such cost to ourselves as came upon God at Jesus’ death. Let the man be found who has undergone the shattering experience of pardoning, nobly and tenderly, some awful wrong to himself, still more to one beloved by him, and he will understand the meaning of Calvary better than all the theologians in the world.”

Forgiveness is no mere business; it is a “shattering experience” for the one who forgives as well as for the one who is forgiven. This is because forgiveness, unlike a mere pardon, seeks to win the offender back into relationship. Nor is forgiving simply forgetting about an offence done; in order to reconcile the person who has hurt him, the forgiver must painfully call the offence to mind. Reconciliation is a costly process because there are resistances to it in the attitude of the person who has offended; the one who sets out to forgive must aim to remove those blockages and restore the relationship. Forgiveness then involves an acceptance which is costly.

What Makes Us Care?

Why do so many people grieve the destruction of a building more than they would grieve the death of children? Why are they considerably more prepared to donate money towards the restoration of a damaged building than they would be to give money to feed the hungry?

These are straight questions and I do not wish to imply any moral worth in them. It would be hypocritical of me to do so as, although I don't give a tinker's cuss about Notre Dame Cathedral, I do cry uncontrollably when confronted with a sad story about a dog whilst I can shrug off with an "Oh, how awful" the deaths of thousands of human beings in a tsunami or during an act of genocide.

Raised Up

From the sermon,
“The Word was made flesh”
by Frederic Farrar, 1831-1903

Through the fact, through the mystery, through all the life and teaching of our Lord, there is one lesson, which, if we could but grasp it, would be a lifelong source of strength, of purity, of ennobling peace. It is the grandeur of that human nature which God has given us; the sacredness, the majesty, the lofty privileges, the immeasurable possibilities of man.

It is a revelation altogether new. Look at man in the light of nature. We look upwards, and, seeing the galaxies of stars, the myriads of planets and moons and suns and systems, our nothingness is burnt into us and we are tempted to think of ourselves as infinitesimal atoms, the creatures of a passing moment, the prey of blind forces in the blinding whirl of chance.

We look downwards, and seeing the earth wrinkled with her innumerable graves, "dead species, dead genera, dead generations, dead epochs, a universe of death" the very dust of the world made of the decay of unnumbered organisms we are tempted to believe that nothing remains for us but dust to dust, that the grave is the universal end and the worm the universal conqueror.

We look around, and seeing the vanity and vileness of mankind, seeing races wholly given up to various idolatries, seeing that the dark places of the earth are the habitations of cruelty, seeing man savage and man civilised alike abandoning himself to passions of dishonour and given over to the lowest instincts, we are tempted to despise our being. We turn to communities nominally Christian and we see them tainted by greed, given over to lies, besotted by drink, the bond-slaves of base and brutal appetites. We turn to biography, and it is chiefly a record of human sorrows; to history, and it tells of ages of crime and error; to the poets, and their songs are full of sadness and despondency.

And when we dwell on all this and look each at the plague of our own hearts, we blush for ourselves, we blush for our race, we say that “however we brazen it out, we men are a little breed.” It is such thoughts that drive men into the devil's gospel of despair and materialism; it is from the exclusive contemplation of man in his lowest nature that many are led to say so wearily that life is not worth living; that it is:

“A life of nothings, nothing worth
from that first nothing at our birth
to that last nothing under the earth.”

Now turn from the shadow, face the sun! Turn away your eyes from the phenomena of evil and ruin, and look at the manger-cradle of Bethlehem. Look at man in the light of the Incarnation and see how all is changed! The Jesus, who is Christ the Lord, was the perfect man, the representative man, man in the image of God, God as a man with men; God not merely revealing himself to man, not merely uniting himself to man, but God becoming a man. We do not judge of the tree from the blighted trunk, the cankered leaves, the bitter roots but from its glory of foliage, of blossom and of fruit. We do not estimate the ship from the miserable wreck which the rocks have gored and the waves shattered and the winds flung in scorn upon the shore but from the gallant barque, when, with streaming flag and bellying sails, “she walks the waters like a thing of life.” Even so we must take our estimate of man, not from the churl and the villain, not from the liar and the scoundrel, not from the selfish miser and the staggering drunkard, not from the indolence of the slothful and the wretchedness of the depraved; not from the harlot and the felon and those yet more guilty, who made them what they are, but from the pure, the good, the spiritually-minded. These alone are true men and true women; the others are but the blight of men and women, the wrecks of what once were, or what once should have been, those gracious things. In the light from Bethlehem's cradle, we see man not as he too often is, but as he may be, as we trust that he yet will be. We see his darkness dispelled by a divine light, his nature transfigured with an illumination not of earth. Saint Anselm wrote a famous book with the title, “Cur Deus Homo?” (“Why did God become Man?”) And one answer at least to that question is to teach us that “we are greater than we know.” God became man that man might become as God; that he might be a little higher than the angels, instead of a little lower than the brutes.

And in the light of this truth, we escape from that snare of the devil which would lead us to despise our human nature.

We say, “I trust in the nobleness of human nature, in the majesty of its faculties, in the fullness of its mercy, in the joy of its love.”

And, ah! my friends, do not regard this as a mere vague trust, a mere abstract speculation. It is a belief which may affect every day of our lives, in the twofold blessedness of duty and of love. It affects our estimate of ourselves; affects our conduct to others. There is not one degradation of our personal being which does not spring from lack of reverence for ourselves as those whom Christ has redeemed, to whom he has given a right to be children of God. The Incarnation teaches us that our part is in Christ, our bodies his temple, our nature his image, our hearts his shrine. He that takes a mean estimate of his own being, he who regards himself as akin only to the beasts that perish, and destined to no higher end than they, will live as they do. He who looks on himself as immortal, as a child of God, as partaker of the nature which Christ wore and Christ redeemed, he will hold himself ever more and more bounden to aim at a noble and godly life.

Thus, then, the Incarnation, rightly apprehended, becomes the basis of all noble conceptions of our human life.

In the light of the Son of God becoming flesh, we dare not degrade or disesteem ourselves. We see how base an apostasy it is to abnegate the divine prerogative of our being. The birth of Christ becomes to us the pledge of immortality, the inspiration of glad, unerring, life-long duty to ourselves. And no less does it bring home to us the new commandment of love to our brethren. It becomes the main reason why we should love one another. If men were indeed what Satan makes them, and makes us try to believe that they solely are hopelessly degraded, unimaginably vile; if human life be nothing at the best but the shadow of a passing and miserable dream, I know not how we could love one another. We could only turn with loathing from all the vice and canker, the mortal corruption, the manifold baseness of many lives. How is all transfigured, how is the poorest wretch earth ever bore transfigured, when we remember that for these Christ became man, for these he died Shall we, ourselves so weak, so imperfect, so stained with evil, shall we dare to despise these whom Christ so loved that for them yea, for these blind and impotent men these publicans and sinners, these ragged prodigals of humanity still voluntarily lingering among their husks and swine for these, even for these, he, so pure, so perfect, took our nature upon him and went, step by step, down all that infinite descent Despise them? Ah! the revealing light of the God-man shows too much darkness in ourselves to leave any possibility for pride. We take our own seats among the lepers on the Temple steps; prostrate with them we stretch blind hands of faith and prayer to God.

“We are all equally guilty, we are all equally redeemed.”

Standing beside the cradle of the Lord all humanity becomes precious, becomes immortal. It becomes to us a sacred and blessed duty to pity the afflicted, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick, to bring home the wanderers, to undo the heavy burden and let the oppressed go free. If even Christian men saw this duty they would not live as so many of them do. But if we have learnt the lesson of Christmas, the lesson of Bethlehem, let us live to counteract the works of the devil; let it be the one aim of our lives to love and not to hate; to help, not to hinder ; to succour them that are tempted, not to add to and multiply their temptations; to make men better, not worse; to make life a little happier, not more deeply miserable; to speak kindly words, not all words that may do hurt; to console and to encourage, not to blister and envenom weak and suffering souls; to live for others, not for ourselves; to look each of us not on his own things, but on the things of others; to think noble thoughts of man as well as of God; to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest – Notre Dame Edit.

It does not matter how much money is spent and it does not matter if the workers are the most skilled in the world, Notre Dame Cathedral will never be restored to how it was before the fire because it cannot be. What was, a sacred space imbued with antiquity, is no more and whatever replaces it will be something different. Those who visit it in the future will know they are in a new building and will react to the space differently to how they would have reacted to the original building.

From a psychological point of view, it may be healthier for those who loved the Notre Dame cathedral, that was but is no more, to grieve for it as if it was a dead friend rather than pretending it is still alive. Personally, I think that the remains of the old church should be torn down and that a new edifice to the glory of God and celebrating the skills of contemporary human artisans should be created; a new birth rather than restoration as was achieved in the rebuilding of Saint Paul's following the Great Fire of London and Saint Michael's following the Coventry blitz.

A Living Communion With The God Of Love

“Faith and Its Contents”
by Avery Dulles, 1918-2008

An Irish pastor is supposed to have told his congregation that the doctrines of the faith are conundrums devised by God to keep us humble. Some insufficiently instructed Catholics seem to accept this view. They believe in the Trinity, the pope, the seven sacraments, indulgences and possibly guardian angels, for the good, but insufficient, reason that all these tenets seem to be imposed by ecclesiastical authority.

This authoritarian, extrinsicist view of faith can easily breed a sense of emptiness and indifference. Some imagine that it makes little difference what God has revealed so long as we believe it. Devout Christians sometimes say, unconscious of the implied blasphemy: “I’d be just as glad to believe that there are five or ten persons in God as that there are three.” Such an attitude reflects a dangerous failure to appreciate the intimate connection between the act of faith and its doctrinal content.

The content of faith, especially in central matters such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, cannot be divorced from faith itself. Faith is not an empty sack that can equally well be filled by anything God chooses to say. The doctrines are articulations of what faith, in its inner reality, already is. They illuminate the inherent structure of any act of faith.

From another point of view, the structure of faith is Christological. The dialogue of God’s self-communication and man’s acceptance reaches its highest point in the event of Jesus Christ. Every other divine gift or human acceptance is only a reflection of what God intended to accomplish, and did accomplish, in Christ. For this reason, the New Testament can describe Christ as the “author and finisher of faith” (Heb. 12:1). All faith comes from and tends to, him.

The total Christ-event may be broken down into three steps. First, in the Incarnation, God shows his loving initiative: he comes in the Spirit and empowers Mary to conceive the Word made flesh. Secondly, Christ as man responds with total generosity, especially in his passion and death. The obedience of the cross might appear to be a victory for evil, but it is the greatest triumph of grace and brings Christ’s human existence to its supreme fulfilment. Thus the cross ushers in the third phase, the resurrection, which expresses the mystery of life through death.

The central doctrines of the Incarnation, the cross and the resurrection embody what the Christian community, over the centuries, has found most meaningful in the Christ-event.

In revelation (corresponding to Incarnation) God enlightens us by his Spirit, thus enabling us to conceive and utter his Word. Then in our act of faith we freely respond, adhering to God’s Word with fidelity. As we surrender ourselves in love, we already begin to experience the peace that only God can give. Since the life of grace on earth gives an anticipation of the glory that is to come, it corresponds in some way to Christ’s risen life. Thus our experience in faith mirrors on a smaller scale the form of Christ’s own life, which is its source and exemplar.

What we have said about the Trinity and Christology could be extended, with some distinctions, to the whole range of revealed truth. Theology in our day cannot be content to make up lists of truths that have to be believed, even though they may seem irrelevant or meaningless. Since theology is the study of God as he gives himself in friendship, the theologian cannot speak about God without also speaking of man. Good theology enriches human life by focusing attention on its heights, its depths, its total meaning and direction. By faithfully performing this task, theology can dispel the illusion that faith is a mere matter of passive conformity with Church decisions. Faith is a living communion with the God of love.

Salvation And Liberation

From “On Liberation”
by Ignacio Ellacuría, 1930-1989

Paul himself presented salvation essentially as a liberation from sin, from death and from the law. Clearly, none of these three Iiberative dimensions of salvation has a mere individual or exclusively individual sense. Sin, death and the law doubtlessly do affect the interiority of individuals, but they also affect their totality and fullness. Moreover, they affect people, in this case, the Jewish and Christian peoples.

It is fine, then, to speak of liberation from sin, once one keeps in mind the totality of sin and the depth of its essence. Of course, there is original sin (natural), personal sin and historical sin (social). These do not have the same personal or interior transcendence, although none of them fail to possess some because they proceed from persons and affect them. Liberation from original sin begins with the incorporation into Christ in baptism, but it culminates only when the person takes on the life of Christ, and with it, its death, its crucifixion, and its resurrection (Rom. 6:1—23). This liberation from sin does not automatically mean liberation from the consequences of sin, from the great concupiscence of humanity that is at the origin and many times the principle of many other sins and forms of oppression. Liberation from original sin is thus a progressive and historical liberation. No sin, not even the most individual or interior, fails to have repercussions of some manner over the formation of the person and the course of history. This liberation from personal sin is, above all, the work of God the saviour, but it also presents itself at the same time as a liberation of the sinful person as an active being in history.

Liberation from historical and social sin, as the sinful and sinning configuration of structures and historical processes, is also a process in which God and the human intervene conjointly because of the very social and historical character of that sin. Insofar as sin is social and historical, it is not attributable directly and immediately to any human in particular, but this does not keep it from definitely being the concealment of God's truth and the intention to annul the fullness of life that God wants to communicate to humanity. It is in this dimension of sin where the transformation of structures are most necessary, as these structures are, both, the effect of sin and cause of new sin.

These three types of sin, the original, social and personal, are, in effect, dominators and oppressors of the human being and of humanity. They are the negation of the divine image in the human and are the fundamental obstacle between the human and God, between human beings and between humanity and nature. Stated in classical terms, they are the fundamental disobedience to the design of God for humanity, history, and nature; they are the negation of the faith in all of its rich fullness and in time the negation of love. Sin should not be understood primarily as an offence against God that has been made personally, but rather as the real straying from, or real annulment of, the divine plan as it is glimpsed in nature and as it manifests itself in salvation history.

Liberation from sin is closely connected to liberation from death and liberation from the law. Death is, in some sense, the effect of sin, and the law is its cause. There is no integral liberation without liberation from death and the law in connection with liberation from sin.

The death that Paul speaks of is at once both a theological and biological death. The human being is called by God to life, above all the divine life. Yet this life is not possible without the life of each person, the integrity of each person's life. For that reason, resurrection is necessary, one with the fullness of liberation from sin, death, and the law, not stemming from a presumption of the immortality of the soul, but the revivifying strength of the Spirit. However, definitive death, as a consequence of natural (original) sin, emerges in many forms in history. The overabundance of sin in history carries with it an overabundance of death in history, in which the struggle between life and death, both understood in all their fullness and extent, is made present. Liberation theology, following the most profound theologies in this line of thought, contemplates God as the God of life and, consequently, contemplates sin as an agent of death. In light of this, one of the best ways to struggle against sin is to struggle against death in all its forms, but initially in the form of human survival. Because of misery, hunger, lack of basic necessities and sickness caused by oppression and repression, the majority of human beings die before their time, that is, life is taken from them and with it, the very possibility to be the glory of God. To whom this occurs, because of social sin, because of structural injustice, they are the ones who should be called the poor “par excellence” and they are the ones to whom God's preferential love is directed

From this reality, liberation from death, in all its forms, becomes an essential part of the Christian message, above all when, with death, the integral development of the person is taken away along with the very possibility to live or the capacity to live in fullness. Liberation from death will appear in its total and definitive form only after death, in the enjoyment of an eternal life where the emphasis is not so much on eternity, but on life, life in which there would be no oppression, crying, sickness, division, but rather fullness in the communication of God who is life and love. However, this definitive liberation should be anticipated now. It is empirically evident that if the sin of the world and the causes of sin disappear, human life, from its biological roots to its fullest culmination would appear for the majority of human beings in a much richer form. Life, as liberation from death, is thus one of the essential elements of liberation.

Finally, there is, according to Paul, liberation from the law, the great midwife of sin. That the Pauline texts speak specifically of the Jewish law does not prevent one from developing the liberation from any law imposed on human beings along the same lines. This does not mean preaching anarchy or diminishing the necessity of law, at least as a necessary evil. Yet in the church, and, above all, in the life of the people, the law becomes a restraint from which liberation is needed. When in the church the law and the Sabbath are put above humans (and in the concrete and effective, not just the abstract and universal) instead of placing the human above the law and Sabbath, one sees a return to the practice that Paul and Jesus criticised. Yet the problem appears, above all, in the structuring and governing of nations, where many times the law is the institutional justification for the habitual practice of oppression and repression. It is this law that, in great part, makes for a world in which there is an exploitative life for some and an exploited life for others. It is this law that legitimates social sin, proposing unreachable ideals negated in practice while protecting the established disorder favourable to a few and disadvantageous to the great majority. This law rules not only in the social-political sphere but also in the moral, where the letter is imposed upon the spirit, where legality is imposed on justice, where the defence of one's interests is imposed over solidaristic love. All of this goes against the revealed message of the Old and New Testaments, where, with total clarity, we can discern the different hierarchy between the principal and secondary, between the fundamental and the instrumental, between the generous, well-intentioned heart and the formal law, between grace and the law.

Therefore, liberation is not, as some would like to object, merely liberation from social evils that because of moral reasons must be attended to, as one should dedicate oneself to those secular works that are demanded by faith. When the discussion over whether the promotion of justice is an essential or integral part of the faith or whether it is merely a fundamental demand of it has taken place, it has run the danger of framing the question idealistically or dualistically. Without confusing them, faith and justice are inseparable dimensions, at least when both are given in their fullness within a world of sin. Christian faith in its fullness is not only the conveyance of God, the acceptance of God‘s revelatory communication, and the putting in motion a supernatural dynamism, but it is a new form of life that necessarily includes doing justice. For its part, doing justice is already a form of knowing God and giving oneself to God. What is certain is that the full truth of justice and, consequently, of justification is not reached except by faith. For example, only from faith can one affirm that the preferential option for the poor; the partiality in favour of the most needy, is from (Christian) justice.

The Resurrection Of The Body

From “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?
by Oscar Cullmann, 1902-1999

l have put the death of Socrates and the death of Jesus side by side. For nothing shows better the radical difference between the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the Christian doctrine of the resurrection. Because Jesus underwent death in all its horror, not only in his body but also in his soul (“My God, why hast thou forsaken me"), and as he is regarded by the first Christians as the mediator of salvation, he must indeed be the very one who in his death conquers death itself. He cannot obtain this victory by simply living on as an immortal soul, thus fundamentally not dying. He can conquer death only by actually dying, by betaking himself to the sphere of death, the destroyer of life, to the sphere of “nothingness,” of abandonment by God. When one wishes to overcome someone else, one must enter his territory. Whoever wants to conquer death must die; he must really cease to live; not simply live on as an immortal soul, but die in body and soul, lose life itself, the most precious good which God has given us. For this reason, the evangelists, who nonetheless intended to present Jesus as the Son of God, have not tried to soften the terribleness of his thoroughly human death.

Furthermore, if life is to issue out of so genuine a death as this, a new divine act of creation is necessary. And this act of creation calls back to life not just a part of the man, but the whole man, all that God had created and death had annihilated. For Socrates and Plato, no new act of creation is necessary. For the body is indeed bad and should not live on. And that part which is to live on, the soul, does not die at all.

If we want to understand the Christian faith in the resurrection, we must completely disregard the Greek thought that the material, the bodily, the corporeal is bad and must be destroyed, so that the death of the body would not be in any sense a destruction of the true life. For Christian (and Jewish) thinking, the death of the body is also destruction of God created life. No distinction is made: even the life of our body is true life; death is the destruction of all life created by God. Therefore it is death and not the body which must be conquered by the resurrection.

Only he who apprehends with the first Christians the horror of death, who takes death seriously as death, can comprehend the Easter exultation of the primitive Christian community and understand that the whole thinking of the New Testament is governed by belief in the resurrection. Belief in the immortality of the soul is not belief in a revolutionary event. Immortality, in fact, is only a negative assertion: the soul does not die, but simply lives on. Resurrection is a positive assertion: the whole man. who has really died, is recalled to life by a new act of creation by God. Something has happened, a miracle of creation! For something has also happened previously. something fearful: life formed by God has been destroyed.

Death in itself is not beautiful, not even the death of Jesus. Death before Easter is really the death's head surrounded by the odour of decay. And the death of Jesus is as loathsome as the great painter Grünewald depicted it in the Middle Ages. But precisely for this reason, the same painter understood how to paint, along with it, in an incomparable way, the great victory, the resurrection of Christ: Christ in the new body, the resurrection body. Whoever paints a pretty death can paint no resurrection. Whoever has not grasped the
horror of death cannot join Paul in the hymn of victory: “Death is swallowed up—in victory! O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Cor. 15:54f).

Pope Condemns Commercialisation Of The Other

Addressing participants today at a Vatican conference that is examining the implementation of the "Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking," Pope Francis lamented the "growth of individualism and egocentricity" in our times, that tend to consider others in a merely utilitarian perspective, attributing value to them according to criteria of convenience and personal advantage. This is essentially a question of a "tendency towards the commercialisation of the other," which the Pope said he has repeatedly denounced. He insisted that "among the most dramatic manifestations of this commercialisation is the trafficking in persons."

( Source: Vatican News )

Ex-Pope Attempts To Make Excuses For the Inexcusable

The retired priest formerly known as Pope Benedict XVI has written a lengthy letter devoted to clerical sex abuse in which he attributes the crisis to a breakdown of church and societal moral teaching and says he felt compelled to assist "in this difficult hour."

The six thousand word letter decries the 1960s sexual revolution, laments the secularisation of the West and describes seminaries filled with "homosexual cliques."

"Why did paedophilia reach such proportions?" Benedict asks. "Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God."

He is, of course, completely and utterly wrong. Far from helping, he is making matters much worse. His attempt to remove the blame from abusive priests and their protectors in high places and to place it on society and gay men is an insult to those who have been abused by priests and bishops over the years. He is a festering remnant of a hierarchy that put the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church before the children of the Church. He should STFU.

The truth is that people in positions of power, male and female, straight and gay, of all races and of all creeds, have been sexually abusing those who they should have been caring for, without doubt from the beginning of the human race. They have always done so of their own volition in the knowledge that what they were doing was evil. The only mitigating circumstances that some of them can claim for their actions is that they were, themselves, abused as children. There have not been more cases of priestly abuse since the 1960s than before the 1960s. What has happened is that the victims have started to speak out and condemn their abusers. It was probably the ending of mindless respect for so-called authorities that began during the 1960s that has enabled and empowered them to do so.

God will forgive all who truly repent. Ratzinger and his like in the Roman Catholic Church have, it is obvious, no intention of owning up to any wrongdoing.

The God Of History

From “God of the Oppressed”
by James H. Cone, 1938–2018

According to the Bible, reconciliation is primarily an act of God.

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself," says Paul in II Corinthians 5:19.

And in Ephesians 1:10, emphasising a similar point, he concludes that God has sent Jesus Christ "to unite all things in him. things in heaven and things on earth".

In both passages, Paul stresses the objective reality of reconciliation, grounded in God's initiative and affecting the entire cosmos. Reconciliation is not a human quality or potentiality, although it affects human relationships. It is a divine action that embraces the whole world, changing our relationship with God and making us new creatures. Formerly we were slaves, but reconciliation means that we are free. Formerly we were separated from God, alienated from God’s will and enslaved to the evils of this world. Now we are reconciled; fellowship with God is now possible because Christ through his death and resurrection has liberated us from the principalities and powers and the rulers of this present world. Formerly our knowledge of our identity was defined by those who had power over life and death in this world. Now God has redeemed and reconciled us so that we know that true life is found only in him who conquered death on the cross and was resurrected on the third day.

In the Bible, the objective reality of reconciliation is connected with divine liberation. This means that human fellowship with God is made possible through God's activity in history, setting people free from economic, social, and political bondage. God's act of reconciliation is not mystical communion with the divine; nor is it a pietistic state of inwardness bestowed upon the believer. God's reconciliation is a new relationship with people created by God's concrete involvement in the political affairs of the world, taking sides with the weak and the helpless. Israel, reflecting on its covenant relationship initiated by divine action, summed up its meaning in a liturgical confession:

“My father was a homeless Aramaean who went down to Egypt with a small company and lived there until they became a great, powerful and numerous nation. But the Egyptians ill-treated us, humiliated us and imposed cruel slavery upon us. Then we cried to the Lord the God of our fathers for help, and he listened to us and saw our humiliation, our hardship and distress; and so the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying deeds, and with signs and portents. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
(Deuteronomy 26:25-10)

The point is clear: Israel's covenant relationship with God is made possible because of God's liberating activity. Israel is Yahweh's people and Yahweh is their God because, and only because, Yahweh has delivered them from the bondage of political slavery and brought them through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. There could have been no covenant at Sinai without the Exodus from Egypt, no reconciliation without liberation. Liberation is what God does to effect reconciliation and without the former the latter is impossible. To be liberated is to be delivered from the state of unfreedom to freedom: it is to have the chains struck off the body and mind so that the creature of God can be who he or she is. Reconciliation is that bestowal of freedom and life with God which takes place on the basis of God's liberating deads. Liberation and reconciliation are tied together and have meaning only through God's initiative. They tell us that humans cannot be human and God refuses to be God unless the creature of God is delivered from that which is enslaving and dehumanising.

If we take seriously the objective reality of divine liberation as a precondition for reconciliation, then it becomes clear that God's salvation is intended for the poor and the helpless and it is identical with their liberation from oppression. That is why salvation is defined in political terms in the Old Testament and why the prophets take their stand on the side of the poor within the community of Israel. As we have demonstrated, throughout the biblical story, God stands with the weak and against the strong. Thus fellowship with God is made possible by God's righteous activity in the world to set right the conditions for reconciliation. God’s setting right the conditions for divine-human fellowship is liberation, without which fellowship would be impossible. To speak of reconciliation apart from God's liberating activity is to ignore the divine basis of the divine-human fellowship.

The close relationship between reconciliation and liberation is also found in the New Testament. Jesus is the Reconciler because he is first the Liberator. He was born in Bethlehem and “laid in a manger. because there was no place in the inn" (Luke 2:7). He was baptised with the sinners, the poor and the oppressed because he was the Oppressed One sent from God to give wholeness to broken and wretched lives. Jesus lived and worked among them and on the cross he died for them. In him God entered history and affirmed the condition of the oppressed as his own existence, thereby making clear that poverty and sickness contradict the divine intentions for humanity. The cross and the resurrection are God's defeat of slavery. We are now free to be reconciled with God because God has destroyed the power of death and sin. We do not have to be afraid of death anymore. Our existence is reconciled with the Creator’s existence.

Unfortunately, this essential connection between liberation and reconciliation is virtually absent in the history of Christian thought. Theologians emphasised the objectivity of reconciliation but they lost sight of the fact that reconciliation is grounded in history. This tendency is undoubtedly due partly to the influence of Greek thought and the Church’s political status after Constantine. The former led to rationalism and the latter produced a “gospel" that was politically meaningless for the oppressed. Reconciliation was defined on timeless “rational” grounds and was thus separated from God‘s liberating deeds in history. The political status of the post-Constantinian church, involving both alliance and competition with the state, led to definitions of the atonement that favoured the powerful and excluded the interests of the poor.

But if classical theory is radicalised politically, then liberation and reconciliation can once again be grounded in history and related to God's fight against the powers of enslavement. The principalities and powers of evil, mythically expressed in the figure of Satan, represent not only metaphysical realities but earthly realities as well. They are the American system. symbolised in President Gerald Ford and other government officials, who oppress the poor, humiliate the weak and make heroes out of rich capitalists. The principalities and powers are that system of government symbolised in the Pentagon, which bombed and killed helpless people in Vietnam and Cambodia and attributed such obscene atrocities to the accidents of war. They are that system, symbolised in the police departments and prison officials, which shoots and kills defenceless blacks for being black and for demanding their right to exist. As long as Atticas exist and George Jacksons are killed, then we know that Satan is not dead. He is alive in those who do his work. Satan is present in those powers, visible and invisible, that destroy humanity and enslave the weak and the helpless. And it is against Satan and his powers that Christ has given his life. Because Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that the decisive victory has been won. We have been redeemed, that is, set free from the powers of slavery and death. This is the objective side of the biblical view of reconciliation.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest – Brexit Special

The European Union is neoliberalism writ large. Of course, both the Conservative Party and the Blairite faction of the Labour Party are also champions of neoliberalism. Our one chance of escaping the clutches of this evil ideology which has created the biggest divide between the rich and the poor the democratic world has ever known was leaving the EU and electing a real socialist as our prime minister. Therefore, Jeremy Corbyn turning his back on the Euroscepticism of his mentors to promote a customs union with the EU which comes complete with all it's neoliberal, big-business billionaire rules and regulations, is the greatest disaster to befall English socialism since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Jesus And The Tenderness Of God

From “Jesus' Abba:
The God Who Has Not Failed”
by John B. Cobb Jr., b.1925

Jesus stood in the tradition of the prophets. Beginning with Amos they denounced the focus on obeying rules and called instead for behaving justly. They were appalled that people would gather for religious feasts and ceremonies and continue to deal unjustly with the poor. True obedience to God was expressed in viewing matters from the perspective of the most oppressed. The widows and orphans were those who had the least status or security in the social system, and these are mentioned repeatedly in the prophetic literature.

That Jesus' spiritual Abba is the God of the prophets is clear in all his deeds and sayings. Further, his special choice from the great library of Hebrew sacred writings was the Isaiah scroll. In “Luke,” the poem recited by Mary on the announcement of her pregnancy is a powerful prophetic utterance. the “Magnificat” (Luke:46-55). Whether Mary is the actual source is anyone's guess, but it is not unlikely that Jesus imbibed much of his understanding of God from his mother. Certainly, prophetic ideas were prominent in Galilee.

The prophetic God whose concerns focused on the poor and oppressed could be represented in a variety of ways. The prophetic word was often harshly judgmental, and sometimes the announcement of a well-deserved punishment and the call to repentance could be associated with a frightening threat. But sometimes the emphasis was on God's mercy and the assurance of eventual relief. Sometimes the justice that was demanded was primarily an outward act, a way of structuring society. Sometimes the focus was on the heart, the inner life and the motives of action.

Generally, the image of God's power is of control. I have argued that the texts rarely make God the sole actor in nature or history, but God's role typically appears to be to push in a particular direction, often decisively. On the other hand, sometimes we find expressions of divine intimacy and tenderness. Occasionally the language is drawn from relations in the family. Hence, Jesus' understanding has roots in the scriptures he studied. But nowhere in his sources do we find this intimacy and tenderness the central theme in the understanding of God. This was the revolutionary insight of Jesus: seeing God as Abba and understanding Abba's love as intimate and tender. Jesus‘ Abba is the God of the prophets qualified as love.

The Rich Man In His Beemer, The Poor Man On The Bus

I've been checking train prices today. It is cheaper for me to drive my gas-guzzling car from the top of England to London and back than it is for me to buy a standard, return rail ticket purchased at the most advantageous price beforehand. And that is with just me in the car. If I drove to London with four passengers it would work out ridiculously cheaper than all of us going by train. Yet we are being told by the liberal elite that we must use public transport rather than our cars.

To encourage us to do this we are going to be charged for taking our cars into city centres (Newcastle is a definite for this). Except, not everybody will be charged. People, like the mayor of London who can afford to buy a brand new car and fly around the world polluting the atmosphere whenever they fancy a break, will be exempt from the tax whilst those of us who drive old bangers because we can't afford anything newer and less polluting will be charged the full whack.

Basically, these clean air initiatives will be paid for by the hard-up who will end up without personal transport and having to pay the stupidly high public transport prices whilst the liberal bourgeoisie will drive their expensive but environment-friendly cars around our inner cities getting in the way of the busses that the poor and low-paid are stuck with.

Entering The Counsels Of Heaven

From “Christian Meditation”
by Edmund P. Clowney, 1917-2005

To meditate on God’s Spirit-given word is to enter the very counsels of heaven. Divine and heavenly mysteries are revealed to us in God-given words. Meditation centres on God’s revelation, his word. When the psalmist speaks of meditating on the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2) he uses a word that means “to mutter.” The word occurs again in the second psalm to describe the rebellious muttering of the kings who would cast off God‘s yoke (Ps. 2:1). It is also used to describe the growl of a lion and the cooing or “chattering” of doves (Isa. 31:4; 59:11). It seems evident that the psalmist‘s meditation is closely related to the repetition of the words of scripture. Before the days of pocket testaments, the one practical way to have the scriptures at hand was to memorise them and muttering is a universal aid to memorisation.

“My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long” (Ps. 35:28).

The psalmist meditated at all seasons, day and night. He anticipated both morning and evening with the use of scripture; he meditated upon his bed in the night watches (Ps. 63:6).

The repetition needed for memorisation is not vain and it need not be unthinking. The rabbis were strong advocates of memorisation. Teachings were supposed to be repeated at least four times so that students could get a grip on them and there were humorous quips to this effect. A man who repeats his chapter one hundred times is not to be compared with the man who repeats it one hundred and one times. Rabbi Perida recommended four hundred repetitions for a dull pupil, then four hundred more! Only by dint of repetition could a passage be put in a student‘s “purse” so that it would be his to keep and use.

Not an arbitrary “mantra” but the rich treasure of scripture is the key to Christian meditation. Without memorisation, the treasury is likely to remain locked. If you doubt this, read a passage of scripture carefully, put your Bible aside and try to write out, not the exact words of the passage, but everything the passage says. Then check back to see how much is explicit or implied in the passage that was missed by your paraphrase.

So simple a technique as actually repeating the words of Scripture may seem too rudimentary for one seeking the transports of meditational joy, but there is no better way to begin real meditation. If we are to appropriate the word of God we must begin to use it and the psalmist sets the example of repetition aloud.

Repetition in song reinforces memorisation. Song not only provides unity in praise and opens emotional richness in worship, it also helps us with our scriptural meditations. Jonathan Edwards writes that it was always his custom while walking in the fields to sing out his meditations. John Owen strongly favoured praying aloud, fearing that mental prayer would release unrestrained fancy and become “a kind of purgatory in devotion.” Owen did recognise the need for mental meditation but argued that speaking words aloud has many benefits. Our thoughts are disciplined and the spoken word has the effect of stimulating further thought and reflection.

As we repeat the words given us of God, we not only appropriate them; we also bring them before God as the “offering of our lips” (Heb. 13:15). The Psalms move easily from meditation to prayer and from prayer to meditation. The psalmist addresses both his God and his soul. The use of the language of the Psalms aids us in meditating before the Lord and in praying to the Lord.

The words of the Lord are also to be shared with our fellow-Christians. It is the richly indwelling word of Christ that is the source of the spiritual wisdom out of which we encourage and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:15-21; Col. 3:16). Christian meditation is not limited to solitary soliloquising; not only is its fruit to be shared, the process itself invites fellowship. We grow together in the wisdom that flows from the indwelling Word of Christ.

Saved By Grace

From “Grace” by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1871-1952

Grace, more than any other single word, is the expression of the sum total of all that enters into Christianity. It is through grace that hell-deserving sinners are saved, it is through grace that they are preserved and are to be presented like Christ in glory, and it is "under grace" that the saved one now lives. Being under grace, he is "dead" to the law, and "delivered" from the law, whether the law is conceived of as being a rule of life, an obligation to establish merit before God, or a reliance upon the energy of the flesh.

On the other hand, the Christian is in no wise an outlaw. Since he is in Christ as the new sphere of both his standing and his state, he is now inlawed to Christ and is therefore under the governing principles of grace. These principles provide both an explicit and complete rule of conduct which is superhuman and the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit which is supernatural. This manner of life which is to be lived in the power of the Spirit is addressed to, and designed for, the people of the new creation in Christ.

These teachings of grace may be defined as, that superhuman rule of life which grows out of acceptance with God and which is first wrought in the heart and then achieved by the enabling power of the Spirit. Grace makes all conformity to the will of God to be voluntary. Christian conduct and service must arise from within and be the expression of a free choice. Only such action is acceptable to God since it alone is in harmony with the new facts of relationship under grace. By faith in Christ the believer is instantly made complete in him and the possessor of every spiritual blessing, the Spirit is given to indwell him, and he is "made accepted" in the Beloved. The Christian's life must be keyed to these new facts, and when this new relationship under grace is really comprehended, it is seen that there remains no ground for legality in any form whatsoever.

The people who are now saved by grace are of a new order of beings. They are a new creation. The people of the old creation are ruined by sin; the people of the new creation are renewed by the Spirit. The people of the old creation are wholly lost; the people of the new creation are perfectly saved. The people of the old creation are doomed forever; the people of the new creation are entirely safe in Christ Jesus. The people of the old creation have always failed to realise the holy will of God in their daily lives; the people of the new creation may now live well-pleasing to God by the new provisions in grace. They may know unbroken victory even on the plane of the high ideals and standards of heaven.

Don’t Let Your Wife-Beating Become A Habit!

Earlier today, Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Ansari, a Qatari preacher and social media personality, posted a now-restricted YouTube video that teaches men "the right way to beat their wives." In his "tutorial" Dr. Abdul claims there's an "Islamic way" to beat women without physically harming them.

"Before a husband beats his wife, he should advise her, then refuse to sleep with her and if all that doesn't work, then we resort to beatings," he said.

"What's a beating in Islam? A man must make his wife feel that he's strong by raising his voice. Then he can slap her around lightly, very gently. This is what beating is like in Islam, it's not right how some people do it with shoves and hard slaps," he added.

In the first few seconds of the video, Al Ansari warns men against "regularly" beating their wives, suggesting it's OK as long as it doesn't become a habit.

News From Kenya

Kenyan televangelist and church pastor, James Ng’ang, had to cut short his intended month-long sojourn in the wilderness praying for his country, after being arrested for conning a businessman out of three and a half million shillings (over thirty-five thousand U.S. dollars).

Ng’ang is no stranger at his local police station having been arrested last month for threatening to kill journalist Linus Kaikai who has been calling for religious organisations to be regulated.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

So, the young man in Newport, Kentucky, who claims that he is a missing Illinois boy who disappeared in 2011 at age six, has been lying about his childhood all along. Sadly for the missing boy's parents, he is not Timmothy Pitzen. However, he may well be related to Donald (my father was born in Sweden, I mean, Germany) Trump.

Be Silent And Know

From “Telling the Truth:
The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale”
by Frederick Buechner, b.1926

The preaching of the Gospel is a telling of the truth or the putting of a sort of frame of words around the silence that is truth because truth in the sense of fullness, of the way things are, can at best be only pointed to by the language of poetry (of metaphor, image, symbol) as it is used in the prophets of the Old Testament and elsewhere. Before the Gospel is a word, it is a silence, a kind of presenting of life itself so that we see it not for what at various times we call it (meaningless or meaningful, absurd, beautiful) but for what it truly is in all its complexity, simplicity, mystery. The silence of Jesus in answer to Pilate’s question about truth seems such a presenting as does also in a way the silence of the television news with the sound turned off (the real news is what we see and feel, not what Walter Cronkite tells us) or the silence the Psalmist means when he says, "Be silent and know that I am God.” In each case it is a silence that demands to be heard because it is a presented silence, and the preacher must somehow himself present this silence and mystery of truth by speaking what he feels, not what he ought to say, by speaking forth not only the light and the hope of it but the darkness as well, all of it, because the Gospel has to do with all of it. Since words are his chief instrument, words are what he chiefly has to use but remembering always that the silence that his words frame (the silence that his words are born out of and that his words break and that his words are swallowed up by) may well convey the mystery of truth better than the words themselves can just as the empty space inside a church may well convey better than all the art and architecture of a church the mystery of that in which we live and move and have our being. We put frames of words around silence and shells of stone and wood around emptiness, but it is the silence, the emptiness themselves, that finally matter and out of which the Gospel comes as word.

A Price To Pay

From “The Mediator”
by Emil Brunner, 1889–1966

We can see whether guilt is regarded seriously or lightly by the kind of energy or “work” which is considered necessary in order to remove the separating obstacle from the path. The more this is supposed to be done “for nothing,” without anything happening, the more forgiveness becomes an “obvious,”“necessary” conception, the more it expresses the view that lies behind the mocking phrase, “It’s his job!” The more seriously guilt is regarded, the more it is realised that something must happen, just because forgiveness is not something which can in any way be taken absolutely for granted. The more real guilt is to us, the more real also is the gulf between us and God, the more real is the wrath of God, and the inviolable character of the law of penalty; the more real also the obstacle between God and man becomes, the more necessary becomes the particular transaction, by means of which the obstacle, in all its reality, is removed. The more serious our view of guilt, the more clearly we perceive the necessity for an objective, and not merely subjective, atonement. To deny this necessity means that we have not yet considered the true weight of sin.

The converse, however, is also true: only in Christ and not until then, has humanity been able to perceive this burden of guilt, this necessity for an objective act of atonement. The gulf of separation, all that blocks the way between man and God, did not become fully evident in its immensity until the actual Atonement had taken place, through the Cross. In the revelation of Christ, in this one event, question and answer, need and the knowledge of need, are present simultaneously.

Only at the Cross of Christ does man see fully what it is that separates him from God; yet it is here alone that he perceives that he is no longer separated from God. Nowhere else does the inviolable holiness of God, the impossibility of overlooking the guilt of man stand out more plainly; but nowhere else also does the limitless mercy of God, which utterly transcends all human standards, stand out more clearly and plainly. That God can be both at once, the One who “is not mocked,’’ and the One who “does not deal with us after our transgressions”; that neither aspect is sacrificed to the other, or can be subordinated to the other as a mere attribute; that God is equally the Holy One who asserts his unconditional claims, the One whose glory may not be given to another, and the Merciful One who gives himself to the very utmost limits of self-emptying; this fundamental theme of the whole Bible is the message of the Cross, the truth which is not to be separated from the fact, but in it alone, in this actual happening, is the truth.

That God comes, that he comes to us, means, that he himself really and actually meets us as we are. This is why he comes down to our level, that he may really meet with us. That it is God who really meets us, and that he really meets with us means the same thing. He meets us at the point where we become “real,” that is, where we stand before him naked, stripped of all illusions and coverings or masks, with nothing to shield us from his gaze.This only happens where our inmost soul is exposed, where, in the presence of God, we have no excuses to offer, nothing to say. Our humiliation is complete when we perceive that in ourselves we cannot possibly reach God. This illusion, the illusion of religious people, is only finally destroyed by the Mediator of the Atonement. Everything else which religious thought has invented, in order to mediate between God and man, is less humiliating for us, than the conviction that this atonement is necessary.

The humiliation coincides with the perception that fellowship with God is not something which we can take for granted, but something which is incomprehensible and amazing. The more we take it for granted, the more, properly speaking, we take our place by the side of God. The summit of this arrogance is reached in the doctrine of identity: Atma is Brahma (we are God).

At the opposite pole to all this stands the Cross. The doctrine of identity and the kindred systems of speculative idealism and mysticism, maintain that it is not necessary that any objective transaction should actually take place, for God’s attitude is eternally the same. There is no obstacle between us and God save our erroneous idea that it exists. Here guilt is denied. Its doctrine of redemption is not one of forgiveness, and still less of atonement, but this: it is the perception of the unity which was always there, the knowledge that this idea that there is some obstacle between us and God is an illusion; thus it is the assertion that fellowship with God is perfectly natural. This view fosters man’s pride; it humbles him less than any other view; it does more than anything to increase and intensify his arrogant illusions. This is a permanent illusion; it is, therefore, the very opposite of realism.

The truly realistic view, which therefore is just as much opposed to idealism as it is to naturalism, is the judgment man passes upon himself when he admits that he is guilty. The more realistic we are, the more knowledge of guilt we possess. The more real man becomes, the more he acknowledges himself to be guilty. The more clearly we see that fellowship with God is not something which can be taken completely for granted, the more we see that it is 'costly. And the cost is not paid by man. For how can sinful man himself undertake to bear the cost of restoring the conditions of fellowship! Thus this restoration of communion costs God something; even on the part of God it is not taken for granted; even by him, it can only be achieved with labour as a particular event. The heavier the burden of guilt the heavier the cost, as Luther puts it; that is, forgiveness is the very opposite of something which is so natural that it costs no effort. The knowledge of the necessity for an objective atonement keeps pace with the progress of man in laying bare his soul to reality.

It is the same, therefore, with the knowledge of the real God. The real God is the personal God, the One who reveals himself. Knowledge of guilt, the personality of God and the reality of revelation necessarily belong together. The real God is the One who is absolutely holy, and absolutely merciful; the One, therefore, whom we can never reach by thought, who in this paradox, the highest paradox of all, is to us the mysterious, the impenetrable, the One whose attitude towards us is not governed by natural necessity, but is absolutely free, whom we can only know where he chooses to reveal himself to us freely. His free revelation and his revelation in the unity of holiness and mercy is one and the same thing. Hence the perfect revelation of God in the Cross of Christ means both the perfect revelation of the incomprehensibility and impenetrability of his being, of his majesty and of his freedom and generosity. He is the God who is to be feared and yet loved as no other being could be loved and feared. Because forgiveness is his free gift we are forced to depend upon it as a contingent, absolutely given, objective fact. Further, it is the vicarious endurance of the penalty of sin, because it is not merely the expression of the divine freedom, but also of the divine necessity and obedience to law. The Cross is the union of the divine freedom and necessity, and likewise the union of his holiness and mercy, of the infinite validity of the Law and the unlimited sovereignty of God, as the Lord of the Law.

News From Nigeria ( The New Home Of Proper Christianity )

Reverend Prince Ezuma Chizemdere of Jesus Intervention Household Ministry has been arrested by the police for reportedly raping young boys and infecting them with H.I.V.

DSP Elkana Bala, who spoke on his arrest said, “He has been at large for about three months. On March the twenty-second, 2019, at about one a.m., Police laid siege to his apartment based on information gathered that he often sneaked into the house through the back entrance. When he discovered that police had cordoned his house, he hid himself in the ceiling for two hours before he was arrested."

Speaking to newsmen after his arrest, Chizemdere claimed that he had been manipulated by evil spirits into sodomising teenage boys at his place in Ejigbo, Lagos.

He said, “This is the work of evil spirit, with the aim to destroy me because I have genuine gifts from God. Whenever the evil force comes on me, I would be helpless, until I have accomplished its mission.”

News Just In From New Delhi

Sixteen members of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee have been accused of violating the religious norms by colouring their beards. They have been ordered to submit their beards for an independent laboratory test. Three of the accused have denied the allegations and expressed their willingness to undergo the tests. The other thirteen alleged facial hair dyers have, so far, not responded.

( source: "The Times of India" )

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( Brexit Special )

I was surprised by some of the results of a recent poll of two thousand and four people reported on the front page of "The Guardian" (a ferociously "remain" newspaper) this morning. In particular, I was not expecting that forty-six per cent of those polled would favour a hard Brexit whilst only thirty-nine per cent would favour staying in the EU. I had assumed that remainers would be well in the ascendant by now.

What is even more interesting is the fact that this means eighty-five per cent of those polled want either a hard Brexit or no Brexit at all. Evidently, only fifteen per cent, at the most, want or would be satisfied with a compromise, for example, being in a customs union with the EU or remaining in the single market. Yet it is this halfway-house scenario that Parliament seems most drawn to and which Theresa May has now decided to explore with Jeremy Corbyn.

She is wrong to do so and the people (both the remainers and the leavers) are right to insist on choosing between the two extremes. Any compromise will mean the UK losing its sovereignty and having to pay a lot of money in payments to the EU without receiving the full benefits of membership or the advantages of non-membership.

Furthermore, the main, possibly only, reason Cameron instigated the damnable referendum in the first place was to put a stop, one way or another, to the long-running rift in the Conservative Party between Euro-sceptics and those in favour of EU membership. May's current course of action will not heal that rift. It will, in fact, exasperate it. The whole thing will have been a complete waste of time and money and, wherever we end up, it will be in a position worse than where we were before we started, as many people in the UK concluded a long time ago.

Is Jesus History?

From “The New Testament Documents:
Are They Reliable?”
by F. F. Bruce, 1910-1990

Does it matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not? Is it so very important that we should be able to accept them as truly historical records? Some people will very confidently return a negative answer to both these questions. The fundamental principles of Christianity, they say, are laid down in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the New Testament; their validity is not affected by the truth or falsehood of the narrative framework in which they are set. Indeed, it may be that we know nothing certain about the teacher into whose mouth they are put; the story of Jesus as it has come down to us may be myth or legend, but the teaching ascribed to him, whether he was actually responsible for it or not, has a value all its own. and a man who accepts and follows that teaching can be a true Christian even if he believes that Christ never lived at all.

This argument sounds plausible. and it may be applicable to some religions. It might be held, for example, that the ethics of Confucianism have an independent value quite apart from the story of the life of Confucius himself, just as the philosophy of Plato must be considered on its own merits, quite apart from the traditions that have come down to us about the life of Plato and the question of the extent of his indebtedness to Socrates. But the argument can be applied to the New Testament only if we ignore the real essence of Christianity. For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news and, as such, it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers. True, they called Christianity “the way” and “the life,” but Christianity as a way of life depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world’s redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The first recorded words of our Lord's public preaching in Galilee are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe the good news.”

That Christianity has its roots in history is emphasised in the church’s earliest creeds, which fix the supreme revelation of God at a particular point in time, when “Jesus Christ. his only son our lord” suffered under Pontius Pilate. This historical once-for-allness of Christianity, which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance.

It may be replied that. while admittedly the truth of the Christian faith is bound up closely with the historicity of the New Testament, the question of the historicity of this record is of little importance for those who on other grounds deny the truth of Christianity. The Christian might answer that the historicity of the New Testament and the truth of Christianity do not become less vitally important for mankind by being ignored or denied. But the truth of the New Testament documents is also a very important question on purely historical grounds. The words of the historian Lecky, who was no believer in revealed religion, have often been quoted:

“The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to
soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists.“

But the character of Jesus can be known only from the New Testament records; the influence of his character is, therefore, tantamount to the influence of the New Testament records. Would it not, then. be paradoxical if the records which, on the testimony of a rationalist historian, produced such results, were devoid of historical truth? This. of course, does not in itself prove the historicity of these records. for history is full of paradoxes, but it does afford an additional reason for seriously investigating the trustworthiness of records which have had so marked an influence on human history. Whether our approach is theological or historical, it does matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not.

Or The Nearest Sunday

From The Herts Advertiser

On the twenty-fourth of March this year, residents of Colney Heath were surprised to come across a group of druids practising their arcane rituals in the middle of their village. It transpired that members of the Chiltern Nemeton Grove, who are normally to be found in the Chilterns, had chosen to hold their Spring Equinox celebrations in Colney Heath because a member of the group used to live there. They welcomed in the new season by leading a meditative walk, holding hands in a circle, reading poems, singing, and playing instruments. They also hung a biodegradable offering on a tree.

Druid priest Paul Sandford, who founded the grove in 2000, said: “In the walking meditation, each time we put our feet on the earth we become mindful of the flora, fauna and animals, and of their spiritual life forces. We try to connect with them in our feet and honour the life forces of everything at that particular locality. In druidry, magic is in nature itself. When the sun and the moon rise and we see the seasons change, to us, the magic is natural. We are not witches in that way. We revere the magical forces in nature and even evolution to us is sacred because it is part of nature and it inspires us.”

Although the Spring Equinox was on the twentieth of March, Chiltern Nemeton Grove met up the following Sunday for practical reasons.

News From Zimbabwe

The popular Bulawayo pastor, Ian Ndlovu, claims he has received a prophecy through the Holy Spirit that a white-robed religious leader, who will be posing as a Pentecostal prophet, is going to rise and deceive Zimbabweans using magic and the spirit of a mermaid. His sorcery will cause even influential people to flock to him but those who do consult him will die or be punished by God for up to seven years.

Goodbye Hello Kitty

A group of Polish priests, belonging to the SMS from Heaven Foundation (a Catholic evangelical organisation) have publicly set fire to a whole load of books, claiming that they are sacrilegious and promote sorcery. The books burnt included at least one Potter title by JK Rowling and a copy of the vampire-inspired love story “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer. Photographs of the ceremony, including one showing priests carrying a large bucket of books through the nave of a church, were posted on Facebook last Sunday.

Other books were consigned to the fire along with an African mask, a white model of an elephant, a book on Tantric Buddhism and a pink "Hello Kitty" umbrella.

The Universal Promise

From “The Flaming Centre:
A Theology of the Christian Mission”
by Carl E. Braaten, b.1929

The picture of the world as moving from the old order to the new is projected in Scripture as a history of promise oriented to the future. The history of promise in search of fulfilment is conveyed in stories of exodus from bondage, promised land for the wilderness people, homecoming for exiles, liberation for the oppressed, forgiveness for sinners, healing for the sick, peace for the nations, reunion of separated loved ones, resurrection of the dead and a new heaven and earth for the whole suffering creation. The revelation of God as the maker of promises is the ground of hope that, no matter what, life will be carried through to victory by the power released in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Even if the Messiah himself be crucified by the demons of history, God will remember to keep his promises. That is why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the perpetual source of hope in spite of all the setbacks the people of God experience in history.

The history of promise expands in the biblical traditions, especially in Jewish apocalypticism, to absolutely universal proportions. Monotheistic faith negates every limit to the universality of God's redemptive will. There is one God, only one ultimate, and he is the creator of the world, the lord of history, and the saviour of all humankind. The vision of universality. however. does not in and of itself produce a missionary faith. What makes biblical faith into a missionary movement is that the universal promise looks to history for its realisation. Biblical faith is not universal in an abstract, purely spiritual or mystical sense. It is not reducible to a common religious essence hidden in all the religions, void of all concrete, earthly, historical and social contents. That is the kind of universalism we find in gnosticism. Biblical universalism is, by contrast, a historical project. It requires a mission in history to give the universal promise a matching content.

The universal promise of eschatological salvation has not yet been realised in and through history. The meaning of faith in Jesus Christ is to let him be the “Yes and Amen" for all the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). Without him the promise of universal salvation goes begging for credibility and verification. The uniqueness of the Christian gospel and its claim to universal validity rest on the special place that Jesus Christ holds in the structure of history as promise, hope and absolute fulfilment for all.

The universal promise that is signed and sealed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus sets in motion a historical mission to announce and celebrate the universal future that has been opened up for all people, nations, cultures and religions. None are too bad to be saved or too good to be damned. None are left out of the covenant which God has made and promises to keep on account of Christ.

The deepest root of the Christian mission is thus embedded in the Christian understanding of revelation. salvation, and history. and is not merely an afterthought which dawned on a few Christians who happened to have a vision and heard the Macedonian call. As long as Christian faith is oriented by the history of promise and the eschatological significance of Christ, there will be a Christian mission in world history. Without its roots in the universal promise. missionary faith becomes indistinguishable from religious propaganda.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

If a majority decision is reached by MPs today it will be for a soft Brexit. They will vote for a customs union with the EU or even to remain in the single market. As this is not, in the slightest, what leavers voted for in the referendum, the government should just go ahead and cancel Brexit. This is what most MPs want to do but are too scared to do because many might lose their seats were they to blatantly ignore the wishes of their constituents. However, a soft Brexit would be the worst of all worlds and please no one. It would not be in the UK's interest whatever you might think its interests actually are. Above all, it would be boring. Brexit would end, not with a bang but a whimper.

Cheap Grace: The Deadly Enemy Of The Church

From “The Cost of Discipleship”
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace, therefore, amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is, therefore, the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

News From Nigeria

In a recent interview with "The Whistler" website, the Reverend Prince U. Ukpai of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria claimed that while pastors are not expected to be involved in immoral acts, it is unreasonable to think that they cannot fall to adultery. The truth of this statement has been proved over and over again and cannot be disputed. What is suspect is the veracity of Ukpai's secondary claim, that all male adultery is the fault of their wives. Insisting that the wife should be blamed if a pastor goes into adultery, he said it is difficult for a sexually satisfied man to commit adultery.

"Any pastor who is involved in extra-marital affairs we should ask his wife. She may be the cause of it. Speaking as a man and a pastor, look out to all the men who are doing well in their churches and check out their wives. When a woman has constituted herself into the devil, what do you expect him to do?"

Referring to the wives of church ministers he went on to say, "You only want the man to look at your face but you never cared to look at his own face to ask him what is the matter, knowing fully well that the man has not done exercise (you starved him of sex), and your mind still tells you all is well, then you are a foolish woman.

"That is the reason am calling out all the woman to advise pastors wives and other women who deliberately feel that they can starve their husbands. I call out every sister, Godly mothers in churches to pray for your pastors and counsel your pastors’ wives. Please feed your man, feed him, place him on maximum exercise (sex). Even when you are praying and fasting if he demands it break your fast and feed him."

Giving reasons why it has to be so, he said the man’s anatomical and physiological makeup is not the same as the woman.

“A woman may stay for some time without having routine exercise (sex), but a man is not configured that way. It’s like a bucket that once the water fills you have to turn it. If the bucket is full and you don’t remove it, it will start spilling and it must touch the ground. That is why many men are involved in masturbation.”

Mary Ogbe, a hair stylist in Abuja, agrees with Reverend Ukpai.

“A lot of things can make them fall. When they are not spiritually grounded and lack self-control. Also, when their wives do not perform very well or deny him of sex. I think the wife should be blamed for any man of God having an extramarital affair."

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