Sunday, May 11, 2014

3. AUTHORITY & CERTAINTY (including AMBIGUITY, DOUBT, CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS, AFFIRMING DIVERSITY, PARADIGM SHIFTS,OTHER RELIGIONS)


A bigot’s ‘rights’ ignore how culture shapes our brains


~~

FB friend: how do we tell when something is a product of our own egos, or if it is from G*d? This is called discernment. Lots of excellent books have been written on this subject. My favourite is "God of Surprises" by Gerard W Hughes, which won the Collins Biennial Religious Book Award in 1987, so getting on, but still has lots of relevant material and is very easy reading. I heartily recommend it. 1985, Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, London. Amazon tells me there is a newer edition, but still a good read.
~~

denominations 41000 source

See note 3 Wikipedia article... 



Inline image 1

~~


Christians are, or should be, learners to the end of their days - Lesslie Newbigin

Thomas Merton's famous prayer

Sam Keen: The adventure of the Spirit begins when we stop pretending and performing and accept our confusion and insecurity. 

~~

Christianity is a religion of freedom: legalism, an insidious thing, is the very antithesis of Christian freedom. The presence of freedom makes some people so angry at their own lack of freedom that their hatred will destroy their vision: they will attempt to crucify the bringer of freedom; and instigate 'witch-hunts' which test people's orthodoxy. Religious fundamentalists who are as certain of their truths as they are hostile to anyone who might deviate from that truth... 

Everyone wants freedom, yet in practice most people fear it: classical expression in Dostoevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor. Christ's refusal of the temptations to compel obedience by miracle and mystery and authority left his followers with an intolerable burden of freedom. But the Church has corrected that, says the inquisitor. And he sends Christ away...

paradox: what we most desire can be our greatest threat.

Michael Polanyi: purpose of his great book 'Personal Knowledge': 'The principal purpose of this book is to achieve a frame of mind in which I may hold firmly to what I believe to be true, even though I know that it might conceivably be false'. The statement of someone secure enough in his own belief not to fear freedom... open enough in his freedom to welcome the freedom of others. 

The eternal question: ‘What is Truth?’ Four sources of truth: reason, (a sacred book e.g. the Bible), tradition, experience.  

~~


Immanuel Kant - central theme of the Enlightenment in the famous phrase 'Dare to Know!'

Peter Berger in 'The Heretical Imperative' : in a post-Enlightenment society we are all required to be heretics, we are all required to make a personal choice.'


Care of the Soul - Thomas Moore

Arrive at that difficult point where we don't know what is going on or what we can do. That precise point is an opening to true faith.

Faith is not faith if it thinks it is certainty (v. magisterial utterances of an infallible Pope).

David Tacey: 'We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.

Peter Vardy: 'Muslim students at my College at the University of London sometimes approach me with disbelief that I cannot see the "obvious" truth of Islam. To them Islam is so clearly true, and the revelation in the Holy Koran to the prophet Muhammad is so obvious that it seems incredible that any open-minded person who seeks truth could fail to see this truth.'

~~

Care of the Soul Thomas Moore : we have to arrive at that difficult point where we don't know what is going on or what we can do. That precise point is an opening to true faith...

The Romans consulted chicken livers to discern the will of the gods; Gypsies look at the configuration of tea leaves.

Many Christians prefer the arrangement of circumstances (doors opening/closing) or their inner hunches/promptings.

Sam Keen (Fire in the Belly): Authentic faith always seeks a dialogue with reason: the knowledge of heart and head must be in harmony or the psyche will remain diseased.


Scott Peck: it would be a strange God who showered us with certainty, thereby relieving us
from any need to exercise courage, initiative and our capacity to figure things out for ourselves. Most of the evil in the world is committed by people who are absolutely certain that they know what they're doing.

Indigenous religions confer authority on the awesome activity of the elements - sun, moon etc.

Jewish tradition - the law and the prophets.

Muslims - Allah's revelation to Muhammad.

Early Christians - the resurrection as the authoritative validation of the Jesus event.

Anselm: faith seeking understand, or meaning

(Bruce Wilson - Reasons of the Heart): I think it is impossible to explain faith. It is like trying to explain air, which one cannot do by dividing it into its components and labelling them scientifically. It must be breathed to be understood.

Prot reformers - authority of scripture as superior to any church tradition.

Enlightenment thinkers endowed reason with authority

Twentieth century scholars - science as authoritative

Last few decades New Age thinking - relational, environmental etc


Xxxxxxx

Doubt challenges all these authorities

~~


Proton (creation) and eschaton (the end-of-the-universe-as-we-know-it)
- four questions: Who? When? How? Why? Only two relevant (which are
they?).

Bible's main aim is to address the fundamental questions of our
existence: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What
does it mean to live a good life? What is evil, and how do I deal with
it? How do I face death?

Narrative (eg. Genesis), legal statutes for an ancient near eastern
people (Leviticus), history (Books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles),
poetry (Psalms), erotica (Song of Solomon), Saga about theodicy (Job),
wisdom (Proverbs) short stories (Esther, Jonah etc.).

Ancient Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) and a few
bits of Aramaic (??).

Translated first into Latin, and then back again, and then into
archaic English, from which many of our current translations are
descended.

~~

 heart/emotions; experience




33,800 denominations of Christian church in the 238 countries of the world. E...


18th century parable by German playwright Gotthold Lessing: if God were to hold all truth concealed in God's right hand, while in the left hand only the steady and diligent search truth. Then offered a choice: with all humility take what is in the left hand, ie. the search for truth: 'God of truth: pure and absolute Truth is for You alone.'

More important today than the three centuries (?) ago when Lessing wrote it. Except now the very survival of our civilisation may depend on it. To claim to have 'all truth' is the function of an ugly, sometimes extremist fundamentalist mind-set.

~~

(Negotiating a dispute)

'Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind [says] we're largely ruled by our emotions. He describes our emotions and intuition as he elephant and relegates rationality to being the monkey on its back. He argues that we often use our intelligence, our rationality, to defend positions we have largely already settled on... [The Age, 23/12/2013, p.15]

When someone says they have 'nothing, repeat nothing, in common with [someone] it's a good opportunity to test [this] theory about negotiating a dispute: The idea is that one should not begin by asking the parties where they disagree, because all that will do is exacerbate the points of difference. Much better to ask them to list all the things on which they agree. Slowly and relentlessly that list has to be built on until the dispute seems smaller and more manageable...
The Age, 23/12/2013, p.15]

~~

Problems of literalism (eg. * Mormon girl - size of God: not classical
Mormonism www.jmm.org.au/articles/1578.htm

Just as you cannot know the taste of a mango unless you've experienced
eating a mango, you cannot 'know faith' without an experience of God.

You have faith that you can ride a bicycle not through the testimony
or experiences of others, but because you have committed yourself to
the experience of riding a bicycle yourself.

~~


Barbara Brown Taylor writes spiritual non-fiction that rivals the poetic power of C S Lewis and Frederick Buechner. From her latest book 'Learning to Walk in the Dark': "For many years, I thought my questions and my doubt and my sense of God's absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes."

Time, May 12, 2014, p. 61
~~


A Surprising Way to Ruin Your Personal Life
The right tools for one job can blow up another.

By David Braucher, L.C.S.W., Ph.D.

Many of us literally bring our work home with us, as our smartphones and other devices plug us in 24 hours a day. But there may be a more insidious, figurative way of bringing our work home with us: When we apply the thinking and problem-solving approach of our particular profession to our private lives, we can ignore or neglect important aspects of our emotional lives, that would be considered irrelevant in the workplace.
We may, in other words, be using the wrong tool for the job.
Emotional sensitivity and self-reflection are critical for developing and maintaining close, satisfying relationships with the people we love. Our professional skills are often less useful—or even undermining—when applied to these same relationships.
Consider:
  • A lawyer searches through the applicable law to feel confident he is making the best argument for his client. Now he wants the same level of certainty when deciding whether to marry his girlfriend. This leaves him in a state of anxiety, because there can be no certainty in deciding whom to marry. He can do an exhaustive search of the law; he cannot do an exhaustive search of all possible wives. Moreover, a law can be understood dispassionately; a fiancé requires emotional engagement. The more he tries to logically analyze the situation, the more he distances himself from his feelings, and the more confused he becomes.
  • An executive recruiter works to find candidates with the resume her clients require. She decides to apply the same principles to dating. Even if she feels a connection with a date, if he doesn’t meet all of her “requirements,” he is dismissed, and she feels cheated. When she meets a man with the right income, profession, and college pedigree, she gets excited—despite an absence of kindness and warmth. After all, feeling an emotional connection with a candidate at work is irrelevant to her client’s needs. But what about her own?
  • An architect prides himself on creating the spaces his clients want. When his two-year-old daughter is afraid of being stuck in her crib at night, he designs an easy exit for herafter all,if the client isn’t happy with the space, you change it. Understandably, though, his wife does not want their daughter to be able to roam the apartment alone at night. What his daughter really needs is help with self-soothing so she can learn to sleep through the night.
  • An investment banker believed in the bedrock financial concept that you never foreclose on an option. It's a common sense notion: You don’t want to give up something that you might want in the future. When applied to dating, though, it leaves out a crucial element—emotional reciprocity. As the young man lived according to this concept, he strung along one woman as he dated others. He didn’t want to tell her that he wasn’t that into her, thereby foreclosing on the option to date her in the future. But the woman desired a relationship with someone who was equally interested in her, and foreclosed on him instead.
  • On the battlefield, there is only victory or defeat. But a former military officer often applies this approach when he is in conflict with friends. When he feels wronged, he is quick to retaliate, lobbing verbal missiles and refusing to give ground. On the battlefield you must fight back, but with friends, our lives are rarely in danger—the valued currencies in this realm areunderstanding and forgiveness.
There is a common expectation among friends and family that many of us will bring work home in this way. After people learn what I do professionally, they often ask, “Are you analyzing me now?” (The answer is no.) Alternatively, they launch into telling me their problems. At first, I found this surprising, but it isn’t really—we aren’t taken aback when a lawyer is argumentative. We expect accountants to be exacting. We assume artists to be interesting and creative, and actors to grab our attention. We live in a country where people are identified with their professions.

Bottom of Form
The problem is when we expect our professional skills to be applicable to our personal lives.

David Braucher, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., is a Candidate at The William Alanson White Institute. He has lectured at the NYU School of Social Work and written on relationships. He is in private practice in Manhattan.

Albert Einstein, who spent his life exploring and unravelling the great mysteries, admitted there was one immutable unknowable. The future.

'I never think of the future; it comes soon enough.' he'd say...

Live each day as if it might be one's last...


~~


 Salman Rushdie (who was not original in the idea) that Eastern religion, in which he also includes Islam, is shame based while Western religion (i.e., in that context, Christianity and Judaism) is based in concepts of sin and redemption.

If belief in God is narrowed down to a single set of ideas, or one-sided interpretations, or simplistic answers, then our belief in God becomes distorted...

Lust for simplicity and certainty = denial of paradox / need to live with paradox

Classic request sent by a student to a Christian enquiry agency: ' We are doing God this term; please send me full details and pamphlets...'

Alister McGrath ('The rise and fall of disbelief in the modern world'): The English experience suggested that nobody really doubted the existence of God until theologians tried to prove it

~~

Reason and faith are not polar opposites. Reason is integral to the life of faith; it helps to distinguish it from mere prejudice or superstition. The faith by which a Christian lives is fully compatible with a continuing search to understand better what the content of that faith should be. 

~~

Frank Morrison, Who Moved the Stone? An unbeliever, but with the mind of an attorney he set out to write a book that would prove that the resurrection of Jesus never happened... Set out to write one kind of book and by the sheer force of circumstances wrote quite another. 

~~


Like his brother James, Jude stayed a sceptic for all his young years... seemed to approach his writing with the mind of someone who had come to faith later in life... 

~~

Bronowski: 'we have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power'

From the vantage-point of history, certainty (and truth) are culturally conditioned constructs, not absolutes (Geoffrey P Dobson: 'A Chaos of Delight')

Plato and Aristotle both said 'Philosophy begins in  wonder

Life on earth possible... balance between expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe's history has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 10 to the power of 60.

Paul Davies - it's the same as aiming at a target an inch wide, let's say a 20 cent coin on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away, and hitting the mark!

~~


LIVING WITH AMBIGUITY


My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, declares Yahweh.
For the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.
We know only imperfectly… When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with childish ways. Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles… Now I can know only imperfectly.
The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still — the marriage of Christ and his church.
So, then, where does that leave the wise? or the scholars? or the skilful debaters of this world? God has shown that this world’s wisdom is foolishness!
How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions?
Who can understand his ways? As the scripture says, ‘Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give him advice? Who has ever given him anything, so that he had to pay it back?’
For all things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him. To God be the glory for ever! Amen.
(Isaiah 55: 8-9, JB; 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12, JB; Ephesians 5: 32, JB; 1 Corinthians 1: 20, GNB; Romans 11: 33-36, GNB)
~~~
God is mystery. We can never encompass him in thoughts or words. When we talk about God we are trying to describe the divine from the point of view of the human, the eternal from the standpoint of the temporal, the infinite in finite terms, the absolute from the severely limited perspective of the relative.
Rudolf Otto describes the sacred as ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’, the awe-inspiring mystery which fascinates us. We are tempted to hide from the fearful majesty of God, but also to gaze in wonder at his loveliness.
We encounter mystery in the descriptions of the ways of God in the Bible, in the sacraments, liturgies and rites of the church, in nature, and in the events of history. Mystery pervades the whole of reality. Indeed, true knowledge and freedom are not possible without an ex perience of mystery.
In the languages of literature, art, music, we touch the hem of God’s garment and feel a little tingle of power, but God will always remain incomprehensible.
Mystery also surrounds the human creatures who are both made in the image of a mysterious God and who have, by their sinning, marred that image. Pascal says this doctrine of the Fall offends us, but yet, without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incom prehensible to ourselves.
So Christianity, says Kierkegaard, is ‘precisely the paradoxical’. (Paradox — from the Greek para and doxa, ‘against opinion’.) The idea of mystery invites us to think more deeply, not to abandon thinking; to reject the superficial, and the simplistic.
Prejudice is, in essence, idolatry: the worship of my – or my group’s – ideas, even ideas of God. If I know all the answers I would be God, and ‘playing God’ is the essence of idolatry. One of my greatest dangers is to relax my vigilance against the possibility of prejudice in my own life, or to suffer from the delusion that I can ever be really free from it. We human beings are more rationalising than rational. Thomas Merton said somewhere, ‘No-one is so wrong as the one who knows all the answers.’ Alfred North Whitehead says, ‘Religions commit suicide when they find their inspiration in their dogmas.’ ‘If you understand everything, you must be misinformed,’ runs a Japanese proverb. People who are always right are always wrong. The dilemma is summed up by W.B. Yeats — ‘While the best lack conviction, the worst are full of certainty and passionate intensity.’
The key lies in distinguishing between faithless doubt and creative doubt. Faithless doubt, as Kahlil Gibran put it, ‘is a pain too lonely to realise that faith is his twin brother’. Or it is a cop-out to save us being committed to anything. Its accomplice, neutrality, is also evil: the apathy of ‘good’ persons results in the triumph of evil. The worst evils in the world are not committed by evil people, but by good people who do not know they are not doing good. The authentic Christian is willing to listen, as well as to save.
Creative doubt, on the other hand, is ‘believing with all your heart that your belief is true, so that it will work for you; but then facing the possibility that it is really false, so that you can accept the consequences of the belief.’ (John Reseck).
So faith is not about certainty (certainty makes faith invalid and unnecessary). Its core is the mystery — and the reality — of the Eternal coming into time: ‘Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man’ (Wesley). The essence of Christianity is not dogmatic systems of belief, but being apprehended by Christ. True faith holds onto Christ, and for all else is uncommitted. It is about a relationship with Christ (and all meaningful relationships involve risk). The true God does not give us an immutable belief-system, but himself. He became one of us to ‘make his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4: 6). Alleluia!
~~~
The essential difference between orthodox Christianity and the various heretical systems is that orthodoxy is rooted in paradox. Heretics, as Irenaeus saw, reject paradox in favour of a false clarity and precision. But true faith can only grow and mature if it includes the elements of orthodoxy that God cannot be known by the mind, but is known in the obscurity of faith, in the way of ignorance, in the darkness. Such doubt is not the enemy of faith, but an essential element within it. For faith in God does not bring the false peace of answered questions and resolved paradoxes. Rather, it can be seen as a process of ‘unceasing interrogation’.
Kenneth Leech, True God
‘Stage 5′ faith involves going beyond explicit ideological systems and clear boundaries of identity; accepting that truth is more multidimensional and organically independent than most theories or accounts of truth can grasp; symbols, stories, doctrines and liturgies are inevitably partial, limited to a particular experience of God and incomplete. This position (i.e. that an appreciation of mystery and ambiguity is the essence of maturity) implies no lack of commitment to one’s own truth tradition. Nor does it mean a wishy-washy neutrality or mere fascination with the exotic features of alien cultures… Rather, each genuine perspective will augment and correct aspects of the other in a mutual movement toward the real and the true.
James Fowler, Stages of Faith
I believe, because it is absurd… it is certain, because it is impossible.
Tertullian
Nicolas of Cusa expressed what the human heart had always surmised: all opposites coincide in God. This insight has weighty implications for any attempt to speak about divine realities. The closer we come to saying something worthwhile, the more likely that paradox will be the only way to express it. ‘When I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12: 10). ‘In losing one’s life one will find it’ (Matthew 10: 39). ‘In spite of that, we call this Friday good’ (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets).
David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
Most of us find it very easy to hurl an epithet or fashion a label. We like to smooth out wrinkles, sand down rough edges, simplify the mysteries that are threatening precisely because they defy categorisation. There is certainly enough confusion in our lives, we reason. Shouldn’t it facilitate our day to day living if we are clear on what is good or bad, who is left or right, what is profound or drivel? The fact is that those who have attempted to nail down or write off mystery end up ‘undone’ by the very pride which leads them to play God in the first place… the Pharisees did not rest until they had nailed an upstart dissenter to a tree.
Donald J. Foran, Living with Ambiguity
If you want to attempt to travel through life without trouble, believe everything (be gullible) or believe nothing (be cynical), and don’t be committed to anything (be ‘neutral’).
Source Unknown
Whilst we might deplore [any] lack of openness to any new thing God is doing, nevertheless this is the psychology of the human creatures God has made. Those whose thinking is rooted in ‘simplicity this side of complexity’ must not be too harsh with others who enjoy ‘complexity the other side of simplicity’. Ideally, we are all moving towards ‘simplicity the other side of complexity’, but we must be patient with one another on the way there.
Rowland Croucher, Recent Trends Among Evangelicals
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea: There’s a kindness in his justice, Which is more than liberty. For the love of God is broader Than the measures of man’s mind: And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind. But we make his love too narrow By false limits of our own; And we magnify his strictness With a zeal he will not own.
EW. Faber
The ultimate gift of conscious life is a sense of the mystery that encompasses it.
Lewis Mumford
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
Albert Einstein
If they [the ministers of the church] had no doubts, they would hardly be very good Christians, because the intellectual life is as ambiguous as the moral life… The element of doubt is an element of faith itself… What the church should do is to accept someone who says that the faith for which the church stands is a matter of one’s ultimate concern… Dogma should not be abolished, but interpreted in such a way that it is no longer a suppressive power which produces dishonesty or flight.
Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought
At ebb tide I wrote A line upon the sand And gave it all my heart And all my soul. At flood tide I returned To read what I had inscribed And found my ignorance upon the shore.
Kahlil Gibran
~~~
Lord God, the God of security and the enemy of security too; I come to you, confused, needing the reassurance of your gracious acceptance; broken, needing your healing — or else the promise of your presence; thirsting for reality, to the fountain of life; desolate, yearning for a loving touch as from a parent.
Help me to love you above everything else; to trust your goodness when I do not understand your ways, to affirm your constancy in spite of my fickleness; my times are in your hands. Amen
Eternal God, the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant that I may know you, that I may truly love you, and so to love you that I may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Augustine of Hippo
In this day, may my thoughts, words and deeds betray a little more of your image in me, less of the influence of the world, the flesh and the devil, so that all I meet I shall treat as Christ and be as Christ to them. Amen.
A Benediction
Knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, [may] you be filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3: 19, JB).
Rowland Croucher, (High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion, chapter 51).

~~


THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM

(Note: I’m not an expert in Orthodox or Catholic theological spectrums, so will limit this discussion to the Protestant scene).
Non-Catholic/Orthodox ‘Christians’ can roughly be put into about ten theological categories. They are (from left to right): ‘radical liberal’ (eg. Cupitt), ‘liberal’ (Tillich, Robinson, Kung, Spong), ‘neo-orthodox’ (Barth), ‘liberal evangelical’ (Fosdick), ‘radical evangelical’ (Wallis), progressive/ Lausanne evangelical’ (Stott), ‘conservative evangelical’ (Packer), ‘fundamentalist’ (Bob Jones III), ‘sectarian’ (the JW’s), and ‘cultish’ (Koresh). Now it’s common to call everyone to the _left_ of one’s theological position ‘liberal’. But I’m ahead of myself. Let’s define our terms.
Political liberalism (Latin liberalis, ‘of a free person’) is about liberty, equality, tolerance. Philosophers like John Stuart Mill believed that democracy, individualism, and the rule of law could be reconciled. Today political liberals argue about how a liberal society should accommodate illiberals – like fundamentalist Moslems, for example. (See e.g., John Rawls,Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, 1994).
Theological liberalism is, broadly, the attempt to adapt religious ideas to modern culture and ways of thinking. These ‘Modernists’ say Christianity has always adapted itself to various cultural situations. (It is possible, by the way, for a person to be politically liberal but theologically conservative, and vice versa).
From this it’s a short step to rejecting religious beliefs which are based on authorities other than reason. Liberals say that because the Bible was authored by people limited by their ignorance it can’t be our sole authority for faith and conduct.
The scientific ignorance of the ancients, for example, caused them to believe in miracles: today we have other explanations for many of these events. (For example a distinguishing feature of most liberals is their doubt about the physical resurrection of Jesus). Higher criticism has questioned many assumptions about the Bible – like the authorship and dating of many of its books, the ‘accuracy’ of the biographical details of Jesus’ life etc.
Liberals also tend to be somewhat humanistic and optimistic (though two world wars put a dent in that!). They accommodate easily to scientific ‘advances’ (like Darwinian evolution).
Christian liberalism varies from place to place and time to time. In the U.S. the Unitarians have been the most liberal major denomination. Recently it’s the United Church of Christ (whose recent hymnbook de-genders Jesus!). Some Southern Baptists prefer to call themselves ‘progressives’ or moderates’.
Theologically, twentieth century liberalism has tended to believe that corrupt society corrupts people (rather than the other way around) so the Church ought to major on saving society rather than saving ‘souls’ (Rauschenbusch). ‘Sin’ is a product of apathy and/or ignorance. And the radical liberals believe that the traditional God is dead in this secular age (Paul van Buren, Harvey Cox. Bishop Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’ edged the New English Bible into second place among religious best-sellers in 1963). Today’s ‘Christian atheists’, like Don Cupitt, do not deem it necessary to believe in the objective existence of God to account for the phenomena of Christianity.
As the conservative IVP Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology points out, liberalism has been a healthy corrective in some areas. Yes, humans are ‘made in the image of God’. Yes, the church ought to be ‘an ethical – and not a solely spiritual – community’ [1995: 553]. And I would add that it’s also a corrective to a naive biblical literalism and fundamentalist privatism. Jesus was truly human. We must emphasise again the prophetic notion of social justice. And we ought to take the idea of ‘natural (or general) revelation’ more seriously.
But there are grave dangers in theological liberalism. The New Zealand Presbyterian Professor Lloyd Geering confessed back in the 1960s that ‘many of the things I have said and believe are at variance with the Westminster Confession.’ ‘We can no longer draw a clear line between what is orthodox and what is not.’ Today Bishop Spong is similarly contemptuous of the term ‘orthodox’.
Liberals are more at home asking questions than providing answers. But authentic Christianity is about truth, not just opinions. Sin is more than alienation from oneself and others: it’s rebellion against God. In ethics our aim is not simply to do what is good but what is right. And although I would encourage scholars to study the Bible ‘critically’ we must never forget that (a) our stance is primarily to be ‘under’ rather than ‘over’ the Word, and (b) we do not have a mandate to destroy the faith of the less theologically-literate.
Liberal preachers have tended to use Biblical texts as ornaments – attached to already arrived-at conclusions and convictions; a ‘resource’ rather than a ‘source’. As an atheist put it: ‘You hear what the psychologist says, what the historian says, what the New York Times editorial writer says, and then the sermon concludes with, “And perhaps Jesus said it best…”‘ [Martin Copenhaver, 'The Making of a Postliberal', Christian Century, Oct. 14, 1998, 937].
Liberals have little idea what Jesus and Paul meant by humanity’s lostness. Evangelism and conversion are alien to their thinking: they tend not to get excited about Billy Graham. But people need good news rather than simply good advice. And liberals can’t seem to understand why Elijah would mock the priests of Baal, Isaiah deride Bel, Paul argue with the pagans of Lystra, or what ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10:31) might mean.
The story of salvation is not simply an extension of human wisdom or an expression of common sense.
This all came home to me when I met a 50-ish man who’d been to a mainline Protestant church all his life, but had always been uneasy talking about his faith. Then he got ‘converted’, and attended an evangelical church. They sent him with some others on an evangelistic tour to Indonesia. There he had to give his ‘testimony’. ‘It changed my life. Now Jesus is a reality to me rather than an ancient nice man. I now want to share my faith. The Bible is alive for me. God speaks to me every day…’
Today liberalism has lost its appeal to laypeople – I don’t know any liberal preacher today who gets the crowds Fosdick used to draw – but it’s still alive in mainline seminaries (note, eg. the work of the Jesus Seminar). Folks today want the preacher to be certain about core Christian beliefs and values. Liberalism is just too sophisticated, too nice, essentially a university brand of Christianity. It is humanism in religious garb.
‘Christ has set us free,’ writes Paul to the Galatians (5:1). ‘Stand firm therefore…’ Followers of Jesus are called to be ‘both liberal and conservative at the same time,’  the Reformed Churches radio preacher Dr. Peter Eldersveld used to say. ‘We are instructed to conserve our liberty… You might say that the whole Protestant Reformation was truly liberal, in the true meaning of that term. But in order to be liberal it had to be truly conservative – that is, it [called us] back to the historic [Christian] faith. In fact its “liberalism” [was in] its commitment to the gospel of liberty in Christ.’ ['Liberal and Conservative', Back to God Hour, date unknown].
The last word is from an excellent article in the British Expository Times: ‘The tragedy of liberal theology [is that] it has become all too skilled at telling us what is _not_ the case, what it is that we can no longer believe; but it shows little sign of being able to replace these negatives with convincing and intelligible positives. “Conservative” Christianity, at its best, combines a faithfulness to the founding traditions of the Christian faith, a proper graciousness, humility and teachability, an awareness of and an engagement with the intellectual and scientific issues of the day, and a confident message which people… can understand and rejoice in. In a word, while it may yet be far from perfect, it is the closest approximation on the market to the phenomenon of which we read in the New Testament – a phenomenon which changed the world.’ [Colin Sedgwick, 'Where Liberal Theology Falls Short', Expository Times, October 1992, p.3].

~~


AFFIRMING DIVERSITY

Those who depend on obeying the Law live under a curse… the Law has nothing to do with faith (Paul). If [faith] is alone and includes no actions, it is dead (James).
We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body.
Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be… There would not be a body if it were only one part! There are many parts, but one body.
What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror… What I know now is only partial… Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.
So, then, let us stop judging one another… aim at those things that bring peace and that help to strengthen one another.
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.
Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you.
Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, because love cancels innumerable sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms.
(Galatians 3: 10, GNB; James 2: 17, GNB; Romans 12: 4-5, GNB; 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, 18-20, GNB; 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13, GNB; Romans 14:13 and 19, GNB; John 13: 34-35, GNB; Romans 15: 7, GNB; 1 Peter 4: 8-10, NEB)
Snoopy was typing a manuscript, up on his kennel. Charlie Brown: ‘What are you doing, Snoopy?’ Snoopy: ‘Writing a book about theology.’ Charlie Brown: ‘Good grief. What’s its title?’ Snoopy (thoughtfully): ‘Have You Ever Considered You Might Be Wrong?’ This points up a central Christian dictum: God’s truth is very much bigger than our little systems.
Our Lord often made the point that God’s fathering extended to all people everywhere. He bluntly targeted the narrow nationalism of his own people, particularly in stories like the good Samaritan. Here the ‘baddie’ is a hero. It’s a wonderful parable underlining the necessity to love God through loving your neighbour — and one’s neighbour is the person who needs help, whoever he or she may be. But note that love of neighbour is more than seeking their conversion, then adding a few acts of mercy to others in ‘our group’. Jesus’ other summary statements about the meaning of religion and life in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 involve justice too: attempting to right the wrongs my neighbour suffers.
‘Ethnocentrism’ is the glorification of my group. What often happens in practice is a kind of spiritual apartheid: I’ll do my thing and you do yours — over there. Territoriality (‘my place — keep out!’) replaces hospitality (‘my place — you’re welcome!’). I like Paul’s commendation in Philippians 2:19-21 of Timothy ‘who really cares’ when everyone else was concerned with their own affairs.
Sometimes our non-acceptance of others’ uniqueness has jealousy or feelings of inferiority at their root. You have probably heard the little doggerel, ‘I hate the guys/that criticise/and minimise/the other guys/whose enterprise/has made them rise/above the guys/that criticise/and minimise…’
In our global village we cannot avoid relating to ‘different others’. Indeed, marriage is all about two different people forming a unity in spite of their differences. Those differences can of course be irritating — for example when a ‘lark’ marries an ‘owl’ (but the Creator made both to adorn his creation).
Even within yourself there are diverse personalities. If you are a ‘right brain’ person, why not develop an interest in ‘left brain’ thinking?
The Lord reveals different aspects of his truth to different branches of the church. What a pity, then, to make our part of the truth the whole truth. Martin Buber had the right idea when he said that the truth is not so much in human beings as between them. An author dedicated his book to ‘Stephen… who agrees with me in nothing, but is my friend in everything.’ Just as an orchestra needs every instrument, or a fruit salad is tastier with a great variety of fruits, so we are enriched through genuine fellowship with each other.
A Christian group matures when it recognises it may have something to learn from other groups. The essence of immaturity is not knowing that one doesn’t know, and therefore being unteachable. No one denomination or church has a monopoly on the truth. How was God able to get along for 1500, 1600 or 1900 years without this or that church? Differences between denominations or congregations — or even within them — reflect the rich diversity and variety of the social, cultural and temperamental backgrounds from which those people come. But they also reflect the character of God whose grace is ‘multi-coloured’.
If you belong to Christ and I belong to Christ, we belong to each other and we need each other. Nothing should divide us.
*****
Diversity is a hallmark of life, an intrinsic feature of living systems in the natural world. The demonstration and celebration of this diversity is an endless rite. Look at the popularity of museums, zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens. The odder the exhibit, the more different it is from the common and familiar forms around us, the more successful it is likely to be. Nature does not tire of providing oddments for people who look for them. Biologists have already formally classified 1.7 million species. As many as 30 to 40 million more may remain to be classified.
David Ehrenfeld, ‘Thirty million cheers for diversity’
We cannot easily forgive another for not being ourselves. Emerson
I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Shylock, The Merchant of Venice
Truth is what people kill each other for.
Herbert Read
After three days of discussion at Marburg, the Reformers agreed on fourteen articles, but could not be reconciled on the fifteenth concerning the Eucharist. This led to a division between the Lutheran and Reformed churches which continues to this day. It is reported that when Luther refused to shake hands with Zwingli in farewell, the Swiss reformer left with tears in his eyes. His attitude throughout had been most brotherly.
Arthur Gum, Ulrich Zwingli, the unknown reformer
If Jesus ever came down to earth again, the Spaniards would dance with joy, the Italians would start singing, the French would discuss whether his visit was timely and the Germans? Well, they would present him with a schedule.
Cardinal Sin, of Manila
Different groups within the Christian church are at odds with one another because their models of the Christian life, its beginnings and its fullness, are so diverse. One group of genuine believers can never remember a conscious conversion to faith in Christ; another insists that a datable experience of being ‘born again’ is essential; a third says that a second distinct experience of ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is necessary for Christian maturity. When we ‘test the spirits’ in the lives of representatives among these groups, we often find an equal level of spiritual vitality — or deadness! — in each sector. The Christian life is being offered in diverse packages, but what is inside is the same — newness of life in Christ. Nonetheless, the different groups enjoying this life are readily offended by another’s packages. One person’s piety is often another’s poison.
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life
Inevitably, law reduces things to a common denominator. Under grace, everything is completely different. Individual difference is encouraged.. Each Christian becomes an authentic witness, since each has their own experience of Christ, incommensurable with that of any other person, since all genuinely personal experiences are Individual and unique. Each has his or her own irreplaceable contribution to the life of the whole. Each has an instrument to play, a gift to offer to the harmony of the whole orchestra.
Stephen Neill, On the Ministry
We can no longer doubt that there are many different expressions of Christianity within the New Testament. These patterns… did [not] always complement each other; on the contrary, they not infrequently clashed, sometimes fiercely… The language forms were different, often so different that the words of one believer could not serve as the vehicle of faith of another, or even for himself in different circumstances… So, if we have been convinced of the unity of first-century Christianity, we can hardly be less convinced of its diversity.
James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament
[The church of the next century must be] a church which allows considerable diversity of outlook and expression and does not insist on rigid uniformity. We should not be afraid of diversity within the church. The fact is that people have different temperaments, and these require a variety of expression of faith and worship. But there is another more profound reason for pluralism within the church. This is that no one of us and no one point of view can comprehend the fullness of the mystery of God. We know him only in part, and we can see him only from a perspective which is formed by our historical, cultural and sociological heritage as well as by our personal experience. The pluralism within the church is far from being a simply negative thing and need not be divisive.
Archbishop Keith Raynor
‘The very idea of diversities compatible with communion. . . or of the sufficient minimum of doctrine to be held in common if unity is to be preserved… is the object of all my research.’ It should also be an object of vital interest to all Christians. The diversity which always has existed in the church is still, theoretically, valued and not merely tolerated. Where differences did not inhibit communication by leading to an isolated sectarianism, communion was not sundered; folk lived out, and died for, the one faith before it found uniform expression in creeds and conciliar definitions. If the same faith is being lived, varying formulations of it (which may have equally respectable apostolic origins) must be reconcilable.
Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion
With regard to the question of a ‘minimal creed’, what might it affirm? Here’s a suggestion: We affirm: 1. One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; 2. Jesus Christ as my Saviour, my Lord and my God; 3. The scriptures as authoritative in all matters of faith and conduct; 4. Love for, acceptance of and full fellowship with all who thus confess their allegiance to Christ through Christ; 5. Our commission to continue the holistic ministry of Christ in evangelism and social action to a lost world.
Rowland Croucher, Recent Trends Among Evangelicals
Jacques Ellul, noting that in many of the conflicts of our time sincere Christians are to be found on both sides, welcomes this fact, for he claims that their Christianity can unite them across political and partisan divisions, so lessening the hostility of those divisions and preparing the way for eventual reconciliation.
John Macquarrie, The Humility of God
Jesus brings together Jew and Gentile and from them both produces one new kind of person… It is not that Jesus makes all the Jews into Gentiles, or all the Gentiles into Jews; he produces a new kind of person out of both, although they remain Gentiles and Jews. Chrysostom, the famous preacher of the early church, says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead, and the two should come out gold. The unity which Jesus achieves is not achieved by blotting out all racial and national characteristics; it is achieved by making all people of all nations into Christians… Christianity produces people who are friends with each other because they are friends with God.
William Barclay, Galatians and Ephesians
****
Lord God our Creator, when you made all creatures great and small in their rich diversity you were so delighted. And when you made human beings (in your image) to be so diverse, they must represent somehow the rich diversity of the Godhead itself. Lord, our Redeemer, when Jesus Christ died to draw all unto him, it was in prospect of heaven being populated by people from every tribe, language, nation and race.
Lord, help me to appreciate all this richness; may my theology not be too eccentric, peripheral to the central concern of the gospel which is to increase love for God and others. So teach me how to stay close to you, close to humankind, and make it the goal of my life to bring God and humankind together. Help me to move from law (with its tendency to reduce everything to a common denominator) to grace (where individual differences are celebrated).
May my view of myself be conditioned more by my being bound up in life with others, rather than my separateness from them.
Help me to be big enough to be all things to all people, to help in their saving to keep the bridges between me and others in good repair…
Cure thy children’s warring madness
Bend our pride to thy control;
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
H.E. Fosdick
Gather us in, thou love that fillest all; Gather our rival faiths within thy fold. Rend each one’s temple-veil and bid it fall, That we may know that thou hast been of old; Gather us in. Gather us in: we worship only Thee; In varied names we stretch a common hand; In diverse forms a common soul we see; In many ships we seek one spirit-land; Gather us in. Each one sees one colour of thy rainbow-light, Each looks upon one tint and calls it heaven; Thou are the fullness of our partial sight; We are not perfect till we find the seven; Gather us in.
G.E. Matheson
A Benediction
May God be merciful to us, and bless us; look on us with kindness, so that the whole world may know your will; so that nations may know your salvation.
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!
Psalm 67:1-2 (GNB)
From Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion, chapter 13.

~~



THREE WAYS TO READ THE BIBLE

The three books reviewed here are excellent examples of how one branch of the Christian church reads its sacred book – the Bible – and may be ignorant of  other ways of approaching the Scriptures.
The Evangelical/Holiness method is practised during one’s daily ‘Quiet Time’ (in what Catholics have traditionally termed the ‘oratory’) where one asks ‘What is the word of the Lord here for me today?’ The great Evangelical missionary Hudson Taylor used to read the Bible right through regularly to spot any command he was not obeying.
The ‘Signs and Wonders’ approach asks ‘How can a Word from the Lord bring deliverance/ healing/insight to this ministry situation here/now?’
In the Academy/Seminary one of the key questions about the biblical material has to do with ‘provenance’ (a term the other two groups never use). They ask: how did the Bible get to be like it is?
So:
1. Oratory (locus: my life as an obedient servant of Christ: a good NT example might be the author of the Epistle of James);
2. Ministry (within the Body of Christ and elsewhere – eg. Agabus and the itinerant prophets, Acts 11:27ff.);
3. Academy/Seminary (focusses on the mind – eg. Apollos?).
Each has its own culture/language/cliches/ideas.
There is hardly any overlap between these approaches in many/most churches. For example, if Agabus rocked up to an Evangelical or Progressive/Mainline church and announced he had a ‘word from the Lord’ for that congregation today, they generally wouldn’t know what to do with him. If a theological teacher asked the Evangelicals or Pentecostals about understanding the Torah in terms of the Documentary Hypothesis, they’d respond ‘Please explain!’.
(My own view, for what it’s worth, is that each of these broad approaches has value, and in fact describes the church’s historical transition from a first/second generation charismatic era, through a ‘routinization of charisma’ phase – where creeds and laws replace fervour and ‘life’ – to the mostly intellectual stance of the Academy, and the predictability of mainline churches’ worship rituals).
(Of course there are other ways to read the Bible, one of the best being the Lectio Divina approach).
¬¬¬¬
1. Australian Baptist pastor Rex Hayward’s Daily Readings (2010) are pure ‘Evangelical’. There’s a Bible reading for each day of the year, a page of questions, brief paragraphs with challenging ideas for prayerful thought, and everywhere a call to holiness and serious commitment.  There are no quotes (that I could find) from biblical scholars, but quite a few from hymns and sacred choruses. The readings are mostly from the Gospels and epistles  (we journey right through Mark and James), with a few Old Testament prophets tossed in, and, I think only a couple of Psalms, and nothing that I recall from the Torah. The flavour is hortatory: and the target for Rex’s homilies is an ‘open heart and a teachable spirit’. Good for anyone, of any theological persuasion, who is willing to humbly submit to the Word of God in Scripture and be challenged to live a life of obedience to the will of Christ. You can order it from Wycliffe Bible Translators (Kangaroo Ground, Victoria) or from Rex himself (rexhayward [at] hotmail.com ).
¬¬¬¬

2. Rachel Hickson’s Eat the Word Speak the Word: Exercising a Bible-based prophetic ministry (Monarch Books, Oxford UK, 2010) ‘takes us on a journey that will train you to respect and handle the word of God correctly, and then equip the prophetic gift within you’ (says the author on the back cover). Rachel Hickson and her husband Gordon run a ministry called Heartcry, training local churches ‘in the area of prayer and the prophetic’. They serve also as associate ministers at the respected St. Aldate’s Church Oxford (where Canon Michael Green was rector for a decade 1975-86).
When one hears that phrase ‘the prophetic’ you can be sure the flavour is Pentecostal – not ever, or hardly ever ‘liberationist’: though, remarkably, there is actually one paragraph in this book about the great biblical/prophetic emphasis on social justice.
These chapters comprise the essence of Rachel’s teaching – which she gives to churches and conferences around the world. She expects miracles, and we have a couple of examples here which ‘blow your mind’: (1) In New York she had a ‘word’ for someone in her conference about ‘two zebras’ which she hesitated to deliver because it seemed so crazy. But the Spirit’s pressure persisted: and lo, a mixed-race couple came up to her very excited about their desire to have children, and they’d used this term to describe their future offspring. (You guessed it: the mother conceived about that time and nine months later twins were born). (2) A crippled beggar-man in Malawi, paralyzed from the hips downwards,  was prayed for, then anointed regularly to remove the dead skin from his legs. Ten years later she met him again: ‘He told me how after being massaged with warm oil, his legs had begun to move more and more until all the dead, hardened skin was removed, and now he could walk perfectly’.
Have any of my rationalist readers got a decent explanation for these?
Two of her mentor/heroes are the great Pentecostal giants-of-faith Smith Wigglesworth and Reinhard Bonnke: two people I’d encourage anyone to get to know. (I remember being a fellow-speaker at an Australian charismatic conference in Adelaide with Bonnke: and I’ve never witnessed, before or since. an auditorium filling up from the front backwards as early and as quickly as in Bonnke’s healing meetings!).
This is a balanced book, so Evangelicals and ‘Mainliners’  won’t be confronted with too much Pentecostal craziness (!). Sample: ‘Never accuse people of not having enough faith if they are not healed. We may not understand why people are not always instantly healed, but it is OK to admit we don’t know why’ (p. 183). I like that.
Highly recommended (with the couple of caveats mentioned earlier).
¬¬¬¬
Linda M. MacCammon, Liberating the Bible: A Guide for the Curious and Perplexed (Orbis, 2008).
Professor MacCammon teaches theology and ethics to College students, and these chapters read like her lecture notes (and at the outset I want to record my envy of her students!).
Her first sentence in Chapter 1: ‘The Bible is a dangerous book. It is without question one of the most misinterpreted, misunderstood and misapplied books on the planet. Over the centuries, it has been used as a rationale for economic and social exploitation, the oppression of women and minorities, slavery, war and genocide. It has fostered anti-Semitism, misogyny, racial animus, homophobia… and every sort of crackpot cult imaginable. Yet the Bible has also been the driving force behind numerous social and political reform movements…’
More… ‘There is often a mistaken assumption that Biblical teachings can be extracted and applied directly to contemporary situations… [People cite] biblical texts on questions of divorce, homosexuality, stem-cell research, the status of women… the validity of other religions, and other complex issues…’
The old adage that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ comes to mind. As does this quote from Terry Eagleton: ‘If it is true that we need a degree of certainty to get by, it is also true that too much of the stuff can be lethal!’
So with a professional theologian and ethicist we proceed with humility and a teachable spirit! But don’t let me discourage you: she inhabits ‘simplicity the other side of complexity’. And her mentors are the best of the best – people like Paul Ricoeur, John Bright, E P Sanders, Leander Keck – and the evangelical F F Bruce.
And she applies the Bible to life. Like this: in the reflection questions at the end of the chapter on Genesis (and a discussion of the story of Cain and Abel) she asks us to ‘recall the last time you were really angry. Write down how you felt. Why were you angry? What did you want?’ Etc. Beautiful!
And this: How would each of the three Isaiahs assess some contemporary issues, such as global warming, the war in Iraq, HIV and AIDS, the growing gap between rich and poor…?’ (etc.)
(I hope I’m whetting the appetites of any reading this who’ve not yet had the privilege of studying theology with a good teacher! You can’t do better than to take a year or more off to do that – with no other distractions).
Three Isaiahs? Yes, and the validity of the documentary hypothesis for understanding the authorship and provenance of the Torah etc. Some stories in Genesis belonging to ‘sociology’ rather than ‘history’? Yes, maybe. But our good professor has a lively faith, and her purpose in raising these questions – which are everyday puzzles for professional biblical scholars – is to help us tread carefully through hermeneutical minefields, and come through on the other side with an ‘examined’ faith. In her Questions for Discussion and Reflection she guides us gently into some complex issues.
Like this one on p. 205: ‘Matthew’s anti-Judaism is not unique to the New Testament. How do you think anti-Jewish passages should be treated by contemporary interpreters? What does this phenomenon suggest about other biblical biases, such as sexism, homophobia, and intolerance of other faiths?’
The last paragraph is a comment by the Hindu sage Ramakrishna on the wisdom that our grasp of the Sacred is always partial and limited:
Mother, Mother, Mother! Everyone foolishly assumes that his clock alone tells correct time. Christians claim to possess exclusive truth… countless varieties of Hindus insist that their sect, no matter how small and insignificant, expresses the ultimate position. Devout Muslims maintain that Koranic revelation supersedes all others. The entire world is being driven insane by the single phrase: “My religion alone is true.” O Mother, you have shown me that no clock is entirely accurate. Only the transcendent sun of knowledge remains on time. Who can make a system from Divine Mystery?
If it’s not too late, order this one as a Christmas gift and spend a month dawdling through it on your annual holidays! It will open your eyes to the wonders of a biblical faith.
Rowland Croucher
December 2010

~~


ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM (PARADIGM SHIFTS)

Some people claim to see fern seeds yet fail to see the Elephant standing right in front of them – C S Lewis.
Bishop Tom Frame, in his provocative new (2010) book A House Divided? The Quest for Unity Within Anglicanism wrote:
* ‘Synods, like all committees, are wary of radicals, mavericks, prophets and reformers. They tend to prefer those… who will never challenge the prevailing orthodoxy or suggest institutional risk-taking’.
* ‘In my view, the Australian Church has too few creative individuals and too many critical observers… The Church seems to produce more renegades than revolutionaries, and more would-be iconoclasts than
innovators’.
(Full review: http://jmm.org.au/articles/24606.htm ).
I mark important bits in the books I read: I double-marked those.
From teenage years onwards I’ve been something of an iconoclastic radical, asking provocative questions of traditionalists whose ‘status is the quo‘. If people take seriously something which is manifestly ridiculous, I can’t ignore it. So it’s not surprising that I have rarely been invited to occupy positions of leadership or speak at annual conferences in conservative organizations (unless I’ve been given a highly circumscribed subject to speak on… and yes, on those occasions, I have been respectful, and only mildly provocative!:-)
Teenage sample (to an elder in the Brethren ‘Assembly’ our family attended):
‘So you take the Isaiah text (58:13) about not doing anything pleasurable on the Lord’s Day literally. What do you do between church services, on Sunday afternoons?’
Elder: ‘I take a nap.’
Moi: ‘Do you find that pleasurable?’
Elder (a little confused): ‘Well, yes, I suppose I do…’
Moi: (some months later): ‘What do you do these days on Sunday afternoons?’
Elder: ‘I go for a walk.’
Moi: ‘Do you enjoy your walk?’
Elder (again confused): ‘Yes, I do, actually.’
Moi: ‘But you don’t go to Cronulla (the nearest surfing beach) for a swim?’
Elder: ‘Certainly not!’
Moi: ‘So it’s OK to enjoy yourself on terra firma but not in the H2O on the Lord’s Day?’
Elder was silent (and still confused)…
*****
I’ve experienced at least one paradigm shift in my thinking in each decade of an interesting existence…. including these ‘Aha’ experiences:
Late teens: No particular Christian group has a monopoly on the truth
Twenties: The KJV will not be used widely in 20 years because God wants his Word to be understood – especially by young people, new Christians, and those for whom English is a second or third language…
Fundamentalism has some strengths, but militant Christian fundamentalism (of the John R Rice variety) doesn’t have much to commend it’. Biblical Inerrancy is not a doctrine the Bible posits for
itself, so it must be heretical…
In the first church I pastored (Narwee Baptist in Sydney) we added a staff member (Dave Kendall) when we couldn’t afford to. We simply found enough people who wanted to strengthen the youth ministry in our church to increase their offerings for a year to support this move. In the 1970s we did the same at Blackburn Baptist Church when Robert Colman was added as the fourth pastor – again, when the ‘bean-counters’ would have advised against it. The corporate just shall live by faith eh? The result: momentum was generated in those two churches, which grew substantially over four and eight years respectively.
Thirties: ‘All institutions are inherently degenerative’  (Robert Merton). They tend to accrue power instead of giving it away and exist at the mercy of petty bureaucrats. Thus clericalism in churches (all of them) is evil: leaders are supposed to empower others for ministry but hardly ever do that well’. When institutionalism infects a denomination, the churches get the idea that they exist for HQ rather than the other way around.
Also institutions tend toward exclusiveness. For example, the ‘closed membership’ stance of most Baptist churches in Australia (until recently) made a judgment that an ‘immersed’ teenager was more competent to be a member than a godly ex-Methodist who’d been baptized by sprinkling! When I broached this subject to the deacons at Blackburn Baptist Church in the early 1970s, one of them kyboshed discussion with an ‘over my dead body’ response… See the talk I’ve given to Baptists around Australia on this topic. The tide is turning on this one.
Social Justice and Love for God/others are the key Kingdom values for Jesus but they don’t get a mention in the historic Christian creeds or evangelical Doctrinal Statements. Why is that? Inherent Pharisaism in conservative Christian culture… See my article ‘Pharisees Ancient and Modern’ for more…
The truth embraces many dimensions: the temptation of tired minds is to focus on just one aspect and thus imbibe a very restricted spiritual diet. For example, ‘Worship’ has seven meanings in Biblical and subsequent Christian history, but most churches embrace just one mode, and are thus impoverished. Mission has three dimensions (justice, works of mercy, evangelism) but most churches major on one, or at most two of these. Traditionalists, conservatives, progressives and radicals all have a special insight into a particular phenomenon’s worth because each group’s asking different questions. A mature mind will not be locked into a bigoted ‘left or right-wing’ position on this or that, but will strive to be ‘above the fray’, wingless.
Forties: Paradox, ambiguity, is a beautiful thing. Men who spend more than 50 hours a week pursuing their vocation will not make good fathers. Sons and daughters especially between 11-14 need their dads. In our sick culture males especially ‘are what they do’: their worth is measured by how well they perform compared to other males. The mid-life crisis is all about realizing that this competitive instinct is sick and destructive.
Fifties: Clergy are a wounded lot. The number of ex-pastors equates with the number of serving pastors in the Western world. Before commencing John Mark Ministries we could find no cross-denominational ministry to burned-out pastors anywhere. There are plenty of them now. Each of us should identify our strengths and give ourselves away to individuals and groups who are powerless (in my case Dawn Rowan – look her up in Google – and ex-pastors and their spouses).
Sixties: Since the Old and New Testaments have nothing to say about homosexuality as an orientation, nor about the possibility of a faithful committed relationship between two Gay/Lesbian people, who am I who happened to be born with a heterosexual orientation to deny my sisters and brothers the rich benefits I’ve enjoyed in 51+ years of marriage? This is the major paradigm shift the Church worldwide is wrestling with at present. Like all other paradigm shifts (eg the emancipation of slaves and women) we’ll look back in twenty years’ time and wonder what all the fuss was about…
Seventies: The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word (who first said that?). Looking back, I’m grateful for these insights which have moved from ‘ridiculous’ to ‘the norm’ within a decade or two, when the tribes have caught up with them… The major one where the tribes are still dragging their feet is the institutional/ empowerment one…
Today’s Facebook quote: ‘Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized: First, it is ridiculed, second, it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident’ (Schopenhauer).
But. in all this, there is a price to pay. ‘A prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country’ (John 4:44).
Rowland Croucher
August 2010


~~



IS GANDHI IN HEAVEN? CHRISTIANITY AND OTHER RELIGIONS

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through
him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come
into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all
people. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have
seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace
and truth.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall
not make cast idols. You shall not bow down to their gods, or
worship them, or follow their practices. Take care that you are
not snared into imitating them, after they have been destroyed
before you: do not inquire concerning their gods, saying, ‘How
did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same.’
And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon,
and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and
bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God
has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven.

For the customs of the peoples are false: a tree
from the forest is cut down, and worked with an axe by the hands
of an artisan…
If you turn aside from following me, you or your
children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that
I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship
them, Then they will say, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD
their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt,
and embraced other gods, worshiping them and serving them; therefore
the LORD has brought this disaster upon them.’
The Lord said: Because these people draw near with
their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts
are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment
learned by rote;
For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its
god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever
and ever.
Do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow,
or shed innocent blood… do not go after other gods to your own
hurt. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images
resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals
or reptiles… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and
worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who
is blessed forever!
‘And you know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.
How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and
the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through
me.’
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid
the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called
knowledge; by professing it some have missed the mark as regards
the faith. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with
plausible arguments. Holding to the outward form of godliness
but denying its power. Avoid them!
I anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’
or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false
prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead
astray, if possible, even the elect.’ He opposes and exalts himself
above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes
his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,
‘Rulers of the people and elders… Let it be known to all of
you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing
before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead… There is
salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven
given among mortals by which we must be saved.
John 1:1, 3, 14; Exodus 20:3; Exodus 34: 17; Exodus
23:24; Deuteronomy 12:30; Deuteronomy 4:19; Jeremiah 10:3; 1 Kings
9:6,9; Isaiah 29:13; Micah 4:5; Jeremiah 7:6; Romans 1:23,25;
John 14:4-7; 1 Timothy 6:20-21; Colossians 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:5;
Matthew 24:23,24; 1 Thess- alonians 2:4; Acts 4:8,10,12.
…..
‘God is dead, Marx is dead, and I don’t feel too
good myself!’ In a pluralistic culture we are more aware of others’
beliefs.
A missionary in Nigeria visited a young man in back
street of Lagos. On his bedside table were the Bible, the Book
of Common Prayer, the Koran, three copies of Watchtower (magazine
of the Jehovah’s Witnesses), a biography of Karl Marx, a book
of Yoga exercises, and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by
Dale Carnegie.
These days we travel more, TV shows documentaries
of foreign cultures, students study abroad, multicultur- alism
in the West is here to stay…
Intolerance is increasing too. Militant Hindus have
a motto ‘Save India from Christian imperialism!’ Many Moslem countries
make it a punishable offense to proselytize. Then there’s Lebanon,
and Northern Ireland… Religion and politics can be volatile
subjects, particular- ly when they mix.
Something else has happened that has never happened
before. People (to paraphrase T.S.Eliot) have left God not for
other gods, they say, but for no gods; and this has never happened
before. It is possible both to deny gods and worship gods – gods
like rationality, money, power, sport etc. And it will all lead
to an age advancing progressively backwards…
Of all the world’s religions, Christianity has the
greatest number of followers (33%), followed by Islam (18%), Hinduism
(13%), and Buddhism (6%).
What is religion? Definitions are legion: ‘what we
do with our solitariness’; ‘how we relate to others’; ‘our answer
to fear’; ‘an ultimate attempt to enlarge and complete one’s personality
by finding the supreme context in which we rightly belong’. Everyone
is religious, in some sense.
Although Freud termed religion ‘mass neurosis’ –
religious believers were infantile, unable to break outgrown ties
with their parents — Carl Jung said of his patients over thirty-five,
‘all have been people whose problem in the last resort was that
of finding a religious outlook on life.’
There is an increasing hunger for religious reality.
‘Baby-boomers’ under 45 are not in church as often as their elders,
but they claim to be as religious. They read Shirley Maclaine
and play around with the New Age movement. In a noisy world people
searching for ‘God who is Sound and Silence’ as the Maitri Upanishad
puts it are going in larger numbers to Buddhist monasteries and
Hindu ashrams — places of quiet serenity, simple life-style,
meditation, brief talks and questions. More young people are reading
the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, the Chinese I Ching, or do Yoga, transcendental
meditation or Zen courses.
Let’s ask the hard questions in order: Was Ghandi
a Christian? No, as we saw in the movie, Ghandi, although he admired
Jesus, he lived and died a Hindu. But E. Stanley Jones said of
him: ‘He taught me more of the spirit of Christ than anyone in
East or West.’
A harder question: Is Ghandi in heaven? Christians
offer three broad answers: (1) Conservative Christians have their
doubts. The principle of Karma (cause and effect – paying off
your own guilt) is poles apart from grace (God’s free forgiveness,
which you don’t deserve). Augustine’s theology inspired western
Christians to believe that those outside the church are dammed.
A more refined view might be Karl Barth’s ‘Religion is unbelief’,
or Hendrik Kraemer’s conviction that non-Christian religions were
not means of salvation in any sense.
However, others would argue, what kind of God would
organize for most of his human creatures to burn in hell forever
- many of them because, by accident of birth, or the disobedience
of the Christian minority to evangelize, they had never heard
the gospel? Is he not the Father of Jesus, who prayed for those
who crucified him? Does he not want all to be saved and come to
know the truth (1 Timothy 2:3,4)?
(2) More liberal Christians would answer: ‘Be tolerant.
There’s value in all religions. They all lead ultimately to God.
Of course Ghandi is with him!’ The problem with this view is its
failure to take seriously the question of truth. If the original
Christians were ‘liberal’ there would have been no mission, no
univeral Church.
(3) Is there a way between these two extremes? Yes,
the more cautious say ‘Only God knows: our eternal destiny is
in his hands alone’. With evangelicals like Howard Guinness (The
Seekers) or JND Anderson (Christianity and Comparative Religion)
they ask: Does God ‘accept’ only people within the ‘covenant community’
- whether Jewish (in the OT) or Christian (in the NT)? No: what
about Melchisedek, Rahab, and Cornelius? Certainly Jesus Christ
is unique, and Divine: he alone was God in human form. We are
not to take everyone’s views, mix them up, and get an identikit
picture of God. Jesus is the only way to God. But that may not
mean that only Christians are saved (see Romans 2:11-16).
Roman Catholics, at the Second Vatican Council, moved
from extra ecclesiam nulla alus (outside the Church, no salvation)
to ‘The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy
in other religions.’ Devotees of non-Christian religions may be
‘implicit believers’ or, in Karl Rahner’s phrase, ‘anonymous Christians’.
Hans Kung says these religions may provide ordinary, whereas the
Christian Gospel provides extraordinary means of salvation.
Don Richardson (Eternity in Their Hearts), says God
has revealed himself to more people than we might imagine. The
one invisible God is resident in many folk religions. Christianity
doesn’t replace this revelation, he says, but completes it. Pachacuti,
King of the Incas, led a religious reform in the 1400s encouraging
his people to worship Viracocha, the Creator, rather than Inti,
the sungod. His hymns to Viracocha sound like the Hebrew Psalms.
When missionaries came to the Santals in India in the 1800s, they
found a tradition about Thakur Jiu, ‘the Genuine God’. Many became
Christians. The Chinese had Shang Ti, the Lord of heaven. The
Karens of Burma believed in Y’wa, the true God.
Non-Christian religions are a testimony to people’s
search for God. They may be far from the God of Jesus, but God
is not far from any one of them. God cares for all his human creatures
with a love we who are biassed in favour of those who are like
us can’t imagine. His rain falls on the just and the unjust…
All religions have good and evil elements. As novelist
Mary McCarthy observed: religion makes good people good and bad
people bad. Christians have burnt heretics, Jews robbed Palestinians
of lands and homes, some Hindus still burn widows (sati), tribal
witchdoctors put curses on people, Moslems wage religious wars.
(An eminent Egyptian scholar said privately to Hendrik Kraemer:
‘I no longer believe in Islam but, if anyone were to attack the
prophet publicly, I would kill him!’). Never forget that Jesus
was rejected and sent to his death by people who belonged to a
highly moral and spiritual religion. But, you say, well, Christianity
has sanctioned evil, but in essence it is good. True: people from
other religions say the same of their faiths too.
Christianity, said Karl Barth, stands as much under
the judgment of the Gospel as other religions. Roman Catholicism
will be judged for the Inquisition; and the Protestant John Calvin
for standing by as Geneva burned the ‘heretic’ Servetus…
Will everyone be saved? George Macdonald says all
answers to such a question are deceptive. Two things are certain:
all who are saved are saved through Jesus Christ. And a merciful
God can handle the judgment of his loved creatures without our
help! Jesus said everyone’s going to be surprised at the last
judgment. We should aim to be secure in our own faith, and be
open-minded about matters that are God’s prerogative.
So why evangelize? To get them into heaven? Yes,
but there are better motives: the glory of God, obedience to Christ,
and sincere love for others. Although Christ is not known everywhere,
he is everywhere. We are called to make him known, not to make
him present.
Some don’ts and do’s in evangelism: Don’t major on
the faults in other religions: the faults in your own are bad
enough. Don’t argue: you may win the argument but lose the person:
today the world is a conference table not a lecture hall, so learn
to listen as well as you talk. Above all, be compassionate: Jesus
preached judgment on Jerusalem when it rejected him, but he also
wept for the city. Share your faith, as a beggar sharing bread
with another beggar. Ask ‘what are my friend’s felt needs?’, and
start there. (An African proverb says ‘Hungry people have no ears!’).
Invite overseas students home: perhaps your family could ‘adopt’
one. (Most in the Book of Acts were converted while away from
home). Teach English to some one. Encourage your church to translate
the service into another language, or host an ethnic church.
And, beyond all that, remember Jesus’ approach to
Nicodemas. This cultured man wanted to talk about the contrasts
between Jesus’ teaching and that of Judaism. The conversation
started courteously enough, but very soon Jesus said to him ‘You
must be born again!’
That is still the essence of the good news – even
for the very religious.
…..
Good teaching is found everywhere. In every religion
there is something good, but good teaching alone cannot give life.
Life is only to be had throught he giver of life, not through
the pages of books.
Sadhu Sundar Singh, Alys Goodwin, Sadhu Sundar Singh
in Switzerland, Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1989, p. 49
Where is the truth in other faiths? There are three
bad ways to solve this problem. One is to lump all religions together
and dismiss them all. As G.K. Chesterton once observed, to stop
believing in God does not mean that people will believe in nothing.
They may substitute a nationalistic for a religious faith, and
be more fanatical than before. Another is to affirm that each
religion is part of a whole. ‘There is only one religion, though
there are a hundred versions of it.’ (George Bernard Shaw). The
third is to be absolutist: only people like me have the truth!
Amos (9:7-9) thundered against the exclusivism that believed God
only cares for people ‘like us’. ‘People of Israel, I think as
much of the people of Sudan as I do of you…’
Rowland Croucher, from an unpublished sermon, ‘Do
Other Religions Also Lead to God?’
God comes to us in Jesus who is the way. We are like
people who have fallen into a pit and in that fall have been injured.
Our legs and our arms are broken. For anyone to lower a ladder
into the pit and say, ‘This is the only way out, climb it,’ only
adds to our desperation. But if the ladder is lowered not for
us to climb out, but for one to climb down and lift our broken
body into his arms, carrying us upwards and to safety — that
is good news indeed!
Henk Booy, quoted by A.M. Watts, ‘Christian Claims
in a Pluralist Society’
The neutral observer… looks at the plurality of
religions from the outside: for him or her the existence of more
than one true religion is self-evident… The committed believer
looks… from the inside…: what is the true religion for me?
…I confess openly that my standpoint is that of a Christian.
I am convinced that Christianity is the true religion. I cannot
prove it — faith can never be demon- trated — but I can offer
good reasons, which convince me… We come to a third and ultimate
perspective…: there is a vertical dimension, that of the Absolute.
As Christians we do not believe in Christianity but in God. Christianity,
as a complex of dogmatic teachings, liturgical rites and codes
of behaviour, does not escape the ambivalence of our human, historical
condition. As Karl Barth used to say, religion is always a shaky
and relative thing: not religion as such, but the absolute Being
to which it is directed is the true absolute. This is the primordial
and ultimate reality which we call God, which the Arabs call Allah,
which Jews and Indians decline to name, but worship none the less.
In relation to this ultimate and absolute reality of God, even
the true religion is relative… Even Christianity is in via:
ours is a Church on pilgrimage, on the way, which has not yet
arrived at the goal of seeing God face to face. To admit this
is neither liberalism nor relativism nor syncretism; it is faith,
pure and simple.
Hans Kung, ‘Ecumenism and truth:the wider dialogue’
In the past we have sometimes been guilty of adopting
towards adherents of other faiths attitudes of ignorance, arrogance,
disrespect and even hostility. We repent of this. We never-theless
are determined to bear a positive and uncompromising witness to
the uniqueness of our Lord, in his life, death and resurrection,
in all aspects of our evangelistic work including interfaith dialogue.
The Manila Manifesto
Krister Stendahl is fond of saying that no interfaith
conversation is genuinely ecumenical unless the quality of mutual
sharing and receptivity is such that each party makes him- or
herself vulnerable to conversion to the other’s truth.
Leonard Swidler, ‘Interreligious and Interideological
Dialogue’
The other religions are not to be understood and
measured by their proximity to or remoteness from Christianity.
They are not beginnings which are completed in the Gospel… To
fit them into this model is to lose any possibility of understanding
them. Moreover, what do the concepts of ‘near’ and ‘far’ mean
in relation to the crucified and risen Jesus? Is the devout Pharisee
nearer or further than the semi-pagan prostitute? Is the passionate
Marxist nearer or further than the Hindu mystic? …Is the Gospel
the culmination of religion or is it the end of religion?
Lesslie Newbigin, The Finality of Christ
It has become customary to classify views on the
relation of Christianity to the world religions as either pluralist,
exclusivist, or inclusivist… [My] position is exclusivist in
the sense that it affirms the unique truth of the revelation in
Jesus Christ, but it is not exclusivist in the sense of denying
the possibility of the salvation of the non-Christian. It is inclusivist
in the sense that it refuses to limit the saving grace of God
to the members of the Christian church, but it rejects the inclusivism
which regards the non-Christian religions as vehicles of salvation.
It is pluralist in the sense of acknowledging the gracious work
of God in the lives of all human beings, but it rejects a pluralism
which denies the uniqueness and decisiveness of what God has done
in Jesus Christ.
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
People are saved by faith even though the informational
level varies… Paul had a great deal more insight into the way
of salvation than Abraham did… but Abraham was not less saved
than Paul was… This does not make the pagan who responds to
God, as Jethro did, a Christian. We should not call him even an
‘anonymous’ Christian. It would be reasonable to consider him
a pre-Christian perhaps. The main thing is that such a person,
though for the moment lacking Christ through no fault of his own,
and thus I suppose ‘lost’, is not going to be damned, because
he cried out to the merciful God in the only way he could and
was heard.
Clark Pinnock, ‘Can the Unevangelized be saved?’
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things
Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either
be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached
egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your
choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a
madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you
can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his
feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising
nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left
that open to us. He did not intend to.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
A world of nice people, content in their own niceness,
looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately
in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be
more difficult to save.
C S Lewis, in Charles Colson, Against the Night,
London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990, pp.139.
…..
Lord God, Creator of the universe, who has revealed
your loving nature and purposes for our lives in Jesus, help us
to love you, to obey you, to honour you, to adore you. We have
not loved you as we ought, and we are sorry. We have not obeyed
Jesus’ command to take the good news to everyone, and we are sorry.
We have not honoured you by honouring others; rather we have felt
superior to them, and we are sorry. We have not adored you, but
rather our mental caricature of who you are – a god created in
our image – and we are sorry.
Help us to abandon any religion that is immature,
destructive or unloving. Help us to see you as the Father of all,
to whom all are dear, and whose patience and long-suffering are
everlasting. May we regard the truth we have received in Jesus
as a precious resource to be given away, not hoarded. Remind us
constantly that there is much, much more that we do not yet know,
and to be very humble when in dialogue with others whose lives
have followed the beat of a different drummer.
In the name of Christ, your Son, Amen.
…..
A Benediction:
And now may the Spirit of Jesus, the One who hugged the demoniac, touched the leper, accepted the worship of a prostitute, and who honoured Samaritans, infect our thoughts and attitudes, so that the God who is not far from any one of us, will touch the lives of others we meet this day, for the honour of his name. Amen.
…..
Henk Booy, quoted by A.M. Watts, ‘Christian Claims
in a Pluralist Society’, Christian Century, March 1, 1989, p.223.
Rowland Croucher, ‘Do Other Religions Also Lead to
God?’, a sermon preached in various churches and campuses.
Hans Kung, ‘Ecumenism and truth: the wider dialogue’,
The Tablet, 28 January 1989, pp. 92-93.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan,
1960/1978, p. 56.
The Manila Manifesto, Lausanne II Conference of Evangelicals
in Manila, 1989.
Lesslie Newbigin, The Finality of Christ, London,
1969, p.43f.
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society,
Grand Rapids Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1989, p.182-3.
Clark Pinnock, ‘Can the Unevangelized be saved?’,
The Canadian Baptist, November 1981, p.9.
Leonard Swidler, ‘Interreligious and Interideological
Dialogue’, in Swidler, L. (ed.), Towards a Universal Theology
of Religion, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988, p.38.
…..
Further reading: Ajith Fernando, The Christian’s
Attitude toward World Religions, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale, 1987;
Ian Gillman, Many Faiths One Nation: A Guide to the Major Faiths
and Denominations in Australia, Sydney: Collins, 1988; David Johnson,
A Reasoned Look at Asian Religions, Minneapolis: Bethany House
Publishers, 1985; Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Concise Guide
to Today’s Religions, Amersham-on-the-Hill, Bucks: Scripture Press,
1983; Vinay Samuel & Chris Sugden (eds), Sharing Jesus in
the Two Thirds World, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1983.


~~


Daniel Cohen: FOR ARGUMENT’S SAKE

TED (NPR)

Academic/philosopher: ‘I like arguing, and am pretty good at it.’ 
But the more I argue the more I lose. I’m OK with that. 
Who benefits from arguments?

1. What do we win when we win an argument? What does it matter if you have another view? 
2. Why do we want others to think 
THREE WAYS TO ARGUE:

1. WAR – WINNING AND LOSING  Dominant: shapes how we argue. Strong arguments. Killer arguments. Deforming effects: elevates tactics over substance. Us vs them. Adversarial. Outcomes – triumph or defeat. No compromise, collaboration, working it out together. Dead-ends… If argument is war, learning = losing. ‘Win’: who’s the winner? Even though others might have gained, cognitively. 
PROOFS – ADVERSARIAL 
ARGUMENTS AS PERFORMANCES – POLITICIAN 
2. HOW CAN ARGUMENTS BE POSITIVE? THINK OF NEW KINDS OF ARGUERS. CAN YOU IMAGINE YOURSELF ARGUING WITH YOURSELF? ‘HEY THAT WAS A GOOD ARGUMENT!’ THAT’S POSSIBLE.
Practise that.

~~

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_h_cohen_for_argument_s_sake.html

http://www.ted.com/...

www.ted.com
Why do we argue? To out-reason our opponents, prove them wrong, and, most of all, to win! ... Right? Philosopher Daniel H. Cohen shows how our most common form of argument -- a war in which one person must win and the other must lose -- misses out on the real benefits of engaging in active disagreem...

~~ ~~

Adults learn, not be propaganda... You find out whether a stick is straight by putting it next to a crooked one.' (FWB et al)

~~

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, his eyes are closed." --Albert Einstein, via Inward Outward

~~














2 comments:

  1. Ever considered automating your free BTC collections by using a BTC FAUCET ROTATOR?

    ReplyDelete
  2. BlueHost is one of the best web-hosting provider with plans for any hosting needs.

    ReplyDelete