Saturday, 9 September 2017

Beyond D i s r e p a i r (that Wylie Coyote Moment).

"The sentimental denial of the tendency to sin is Pelagian. It denies the felt, hard reality of original sin, and thus, insists on the fundamental goodness of human nature.
Our present 'enlightenment' projects are a new version of such Pelagianism, which seeks to explain and control the human predicament only through reference to science and technology".

The idea of a fake society by Digby Anderson and Peter Mullen.

It was so often the case in Looney Tunes.
As Coyote, for the hundredth time, finds himself suspended in mid-air, once again outwitted by the sheer capability of his opponent, the question must have dawned - why do I keep on making the same mistake of chasing something I can never have (because the illusion is just that - illusion!)?

There's nothing so telling about our times as the illusion that what is true has nothing to do with us.

A good example of this is the fallen walls of the ancient city of Jericho. Back in the middle of the last century, archaeologists argued that these couldn't be the fortifications talked about in the early books of the bible - they were in the wrong part (era) of history. Well, times moved on, and a far more cohesive picture of the past has emerged which shows that, indeed, these are the walls that the people of Israel marched around until they fell. 

Think about that. Let the penny drop.
Joshua's conquest of the promised land actually happened.
That means that we also have data that points to the events preceding this (the life of Joseph, the plagues of Egypt, the Exodus) being factual.

Now, consider the ramifications of such, for you, particularly in the light of what I've been seeking to show here of late concerning the supposed 'scientific' notions regarding the nonsense about Darwinian evolution. There's a huge shift needing to be made in our thinking.

Refusing to believe in something that is factual doesn't make it less true if it is true.
We may be told today that what counts is empirical truth (i.e. the discoveries of science), but it's usually the case that confidence is actually being placed in a process of thinking (philosophical consideration) about a subject rather than what the empirical data itself is really saying.

The problem, of course, is that we often prefer the illusion to the authentic, the dream of our own contrived notions to the telling facts of real events.

That's how we are so religious.
People think religion just amounts to some form of belief about a deity or going to a place of worship, but we so often define ourselves in the very same religious fashion (veneration of self and devotion to this). 
Just like Cain, we think our notions about what counts are best, never mind what else is going on around us, and we'll actually set out to destroy (or at least discredit and undermine) anything (or anyone) that says different.

History and daily reality actually argues with our everyday experience. To go back to my opening quote, we all know we have a serious problem that we cannot resolve, and yet we act as though if we just try hard enough, we'll make it to that level of equity and bliss that equates to nirvana. In truth, we're just another coyote, chasing the myth, about to race over the cliff edge.

There is a better way.
Historians tell us the life and death of Jesus are very real and that same history shows us that the church was clearly born from an event that was nothing short of miraculous.

Stop running after illusions for a moment and think about that.

Paul tells us that Christianity is based on facts.
Jesus Christ, as so many have discovered, is who He said He was, the one who came to truly save us from our own delusions.

There's something to consider today.

 





Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Broken God

My version of God sat distantly in the sky UNTIL I sang a song and lifted my arms to coax Him down from heaven.

And when my version of God would decided to come down and let his presence visit me, he was 99.99% male and looked like Zeus—a white Zeus, too.
  
Nothing could separate me from the love of my distant-male-Zeus-God, EXCEPT when I was bingeing on food, masturbating over the years (the byproduct of early sexual trauma), or yelling at my husband—at which point He would abandon me until I got my act together. 

My distant-male-Zeus-God was good, but I really wasn't unless I was acting sinless.

My distant-male-Zeus-God was powerful, but not as powerful as sin, because he literally couldn't be around me if I was sinning.

My distant-male-Zeus-God would selectively pick His miracles based on how hard I prayed or believed, making me a hoop-jumping performance addict.

Christa Black Gifford - My journey into Atheism.

 I was struck again this last week by the deep hollowing-out of someone I know who had suddenly lost a parent. His raw response poignantly reminded me of my own response and feelings at loosing my own wife to cancer - the world becomes dreadful and there seems to be nowhere or no one to run to.

Christa Gifford's thoughts above were the result of such a time, and the entirely wrong response from Christians at the moment when her daughter died - 'god takes the best to himself.... it's his testing, and you have done well', and so on ad nauseam.

I was a little more fortunate. The dreadful positivity wasn't fed to me on the day of my wife's death by the church, but a counsellor who denied there was evil in the world (!), but I understand, only too well why there is no place at all for such drivel - Lewis' unvarnished cry in the first chapter of A Grief Observed should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to begin to understand that moment.

Christa's honesty in the above quote is what really matters.
The God of  "churchianity" is so often indistinguishable to the 'Zeus' figure she describes - a figure who demands we do 'good' before we benefit, who orders moral perfection (because exterior morality really counts) and plenty of good works, constantly, if we're to earn our merits and count for something.

I've certainly attended churches where that's the line - do to live, or you're excluded (I ended up being excluded anyway, because I could never be good enough, thankfully, to be in the 'inner circle').

Christa reached the same conclusion as Luther in his monastery cell  - such a God can only be hated, because why would you worship a being so pathetic that he is entirely dependent upon requiring - demanding an absolute, unending servitude from such a broken, hollowed creature as you?

Is this the God we project to ourselves and to the world - a distant, cold and capricious creature, who obligates us to a life of cruel suffering and pain?

This is the broken god of religion, of no value to anyone who has discarded the worthless garb of self righteousness.

The God who holds us in our pain is broken in an entirely different fashion.

When Jesus faces the grave of his friend, he openly weeps. When Jesus faces the dreadful blindness of religious ignorance in Jerusalem, he breaks for those who will not draw close. When Jesus calls His people to be broken and poured out in this crushed world, He shares in their trial. The God who is there is a God equally marked by what we undergo in our pain and our sorrows.

In the new creation, the 'throne' at the very centre of life won't be something remote and at odds with the splendor of that new world - it will be the throne of the Lamb... defined forever by that very moment when God emptied Himself at the cross to take upon Himself all our dreadful severance from the life that comes freely from Him.

The joy of our present humanity, and our renewed existence is one and the same. God is with us, walking through all our trials along with us, never distant, never further than our wanting to speak to Him (and even closer than that in those times when we can't). God is here, and the cross forever defines the unimaginable depths of mercy and love - that is where we have to begin and end, and that's why I'm a Christian... Not because of what He wants of me, however good that is, but because He makes it all substantial, forever, purely by His unfailing love, which is far stronger  than my sin, or suffering or failure, or death. Christ is God's astonishing love made clear to us.

Facing that love honestly frees us from a false notion of God's nature and allows to truly begin to heal, to move towards the one who holds us and all things by the joy of the unity of Father, Son and Spirit.

It is this manner of love - a God who gives Himself wholly to heal - which alone can end our fear, our misery and finally, end our tears.

I live in expectation of the sure hope of that great day, and I can do so, confidently, because of what has been revealed at the cross and in the life of the one who gave Himself there.

What really counts, here and now, is not us putting on some pretense about what we are or what's happening to us - it's about seeing that we are held by a love that is in all of this, even when we are just too hurt to do more than shut ourselves away. Love so great, so unconditional, is the one precious thing that will, beyond this moment, slashed and torn, make the difference.




Sunday, 20 August 2017

Life, and health and peace (Panentheism)

"In this Spirit (the Spirit of Life), it is not just one part of life that is already immortal here and now; it is the whole of life, because that life is interpenetrated by eternal life, as by the spring that is its source".
Jurgen Moltmann - the Coming of God.

Many, many years ago, a friend bought me the book God in Creation by the above author. Although I couldn't get my head around everything he wrote and certainly disagreed with some of it, something rang deep and true in what he was driving at - how we can find hope for today and the future because of the life God gives to the world in His beloved Son.

"Anyone who understands nature as God's creation sees in nature not merely God's 'works', but also traces of God - tokens of His presence. God's signature is upon all of this".
(God in Creation).

In the years that followed, I came to recognize that same vital theme in, first, the work of Irenaeus and also of Martin Luther. Moltmann had indeed tapped the glorious spring that flows from the tree of life - that what truly enriches and completes creation is the life which becomes ours from God (take a look at the parable of the merchant and the field - Matthew 13:44,45 - to glean an over-view of the relationship between God and creation).

We can, of course, entirely choose to miss the markers, but that is tellingly hard, especially today, when the only way to do so is to bury ourselves in neo-darwinian myth to escape the very prevalent data about the essential nature of the universe.

The truth that is there if we care to see that we live in a universe beautifully balanced and so lavishly adorned to provide for all our material requirements, and to constantly push each of us further into seeking and looking for fulfillment of a far deeper need... genuine conversation and thereby communion with our Creator. Truly, then, the reality of our existence is a realm which urges us to look beyond ourselves, to find purpose and definition, and it is in those moments when we do so (i.e. giving ourselves for others, contemplating the numinous behind the stability we enjoy), that we find the real depths of what surrounds us - not a cold, detached realm, but the touch and whisper of purpose and meaning.

That's the case with Christian Panentheism - it's not pantheism (god is merely the material) or deism (god is totally removed from the material), but seeks to show how God is truly part of our world, yet distinct from it.

Here's an explanation:


The reason this matters is because of what Moltmann (and other theologians) note about the essential nature of the created order -
"The crown of creation is not the human being; it is the sabbath*. (This) gives the human being with his special position with the cosmos the opportunity to understand himself as a member of the community of creation".

(*take a look at Hebrews chapter 2:5-16 concerning humanity (it's proper estate), and then chapter 4:9 regarding the rest (sabbath) that is still to come).

The intention of God in making all things was that what He had made would become a domain filled with His radiance - in other words, replete with the splendor of the joy of the communion shared in the community of Father, Son and Spirit. The Seventh day in creation is an image of that completion, just as Christ's resurrection is the foretaste of the manner of the life that is to define that amazing realm - they both speak of a day to come when God is truly with us forever.


What we may term the 'inner secret' of creation, then, is where all of history, all of time and space, is leading - to that 'day' when the Father, Son and Spirit will truly inhabit and 'rest' (be refreshed and delight) in creation. Here will indeed be a new realm  - a heaven and earth defined by the Son's giving of Himself to make us children redeemed by love - where everything we are and do will be defined by love and will facilitate a full and free manner of life in all of our being, body and soul.

When we truly love someone, we get a modicum of the manner of that eternal life. We know a joy and a wonder that overwhelms us and leads us to begin to live and to work for a whole new purpose. The same is true when the love of God is shed abroad within our hearts, and the truth of the life given for us informs and inspires our thinking and actions in this present age - we become people longing to be more enveloped in the splendor of the one who so loves us.

The intention of our Heavenly Father is to see His beloved Son fill all things with that amazing nature that gives all to make us free to live (Ephesians 1:23). He will not be content with anything less....

So why should we?




Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Grace uncovered (getting it, and not getting it)

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  
C S Lewis - The Weight of Glory.


There's an interesting pattern in Paul's letters to fellow believers.
The imperatives always come before the indicatives.

Let me unpack that a little.

Take the book of Romans.
For eleven chapters, Paul speaks out loud and clear on the fact that the only way we can deal with the issue of our unrighteousness is because of the righteousness that has been freely given to us through God's giving of His only Son. Only by having faith in this amazing gift can we be set free to become those who live anew in the life which comes to us from God.
Then, he concludes his letter by offering some guidance on some practical issues regarding how to truly serve one another and the world around us well. The essence of this can be summarized as because we have become his children, we will truly care for each other, so we won't seek to harm others in our living, but show God's goodness to all.

The problems start when we seek to 'do' Christianity the other way around...

You must only teach our manner of ecclesiology (churchianity).
You must keep the sabbath (whenever we deem that to be).
You must abstain from anything we have deemed 'worldly'.
You must distance yourself from the ungodly.
You must be seen to be different (abiding by our codes).

Paul knew the consequences of this reversal only too well - his letters to the Colossians and the Galatians tell us something of the manner of calamity which follows.

It's all too easy today to fall into the indicatives trap - you just have to love people to be 'good'; show them what's (morally) right and wrong and insure that's evident in your behavior and their behavior, and, hey presto, there you have it!

Jesus had seen plenty of that in the 'piety' of His day.

There were many who prescribed rules, but didn't follow them.
The burdens they imposed were great, and the penalties for missing the mark harsh, but their outward shows of otherness and devotion helped no one.
Their manner of behavior only blinded people to what truly mattered.
(See Matthew 23).

 The reality is that true righteousness, viable morality, is far beyond our capacity.

We have to see that true goodness, true beauty, true virtue, are so much bigger and deeper than us. We're the urchin playing in the dirt, not the truly devout and unblemished, upstanding creature we deem ourselves to be.

The reality is that the truly unblemished had to become 'smitten by God and afflicted, pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities' (Isaiah 53: 4 and 5) so that we could truly be delivered from our corruption. If we place our confidence and hope of making it anywhere else than in His giving of Himself for us, we're truly without hope.


Falsehood tells us we're making it by faking it. Truth tells us sin yet remains (1 John 1:18), and that true and total sanctification will only be seen within us come the resurrection (Romans 5:10).

That's why we must always start with the imperatives -
then we can see the gap between ourselves and God, and how that gap could only be filled by God Himself, and that it is that one truth alone that frees us to live well (2 Peter 1:3-8).

Martin Luther spoke of liberating truth being that which is "extra nos" - outside of us.
It's the reality made ours by the one who hung on a cross outside the walls of the city to bring down the wall of division imposed by my sin and yours.

The life, the health, the peace, the joy, that defines life, now and forever, that allows us to even desire something more than our hovels, is found in that one death and resurrection ( 1 Corinthians 15).

So, the next time someone begins to lay out Christianity to you as a whole list of do's and dont's, you know where to point them.






Saturday, 5 August 2017

Escaping the Tyranny (of the 'if only's' and the 'maybee's')

"I, for one, am still at a loss to understand why there is a selective advantage for eels to travel perilously to the Sargasso sea, or why Ascaris has to migrate all around the host's body instead of comfortably settling in the intestine where it belongs, or what the survival value a multiple stomach of a cow has when a horse, of comparable size, does very well with one. You cannot reject these and innumerable other questions as incompetent".
Ludwig Bertalanffy - Scientific Symposium on Beyond Reductionism.

"When it is evening you say, 'it will be fair tomorrow for the sky is red', and in the morning, 'it will be storm today for the sky is threatening'. You know how to interpret the statement of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times". Matthew 16: 2,3.

Last month (in a post entitled 'trapped'), I sought to show just how dangerous to us certain 'orthodoxies' can be. This is because they lead us to holding a prescribed view of our world and ourselves that disconnects us from for more imperative and vital realities.

We noted that in the realm of scientific pursuit, the cardinal form of such wickedness (there really isn't another way to speak about it) is the atheist's favorite toy, Darwinian evolution, and I also touched on why this is so contrary to actual empirical data that it needs to be dumped, but that doesn't change the numbness of the 'orthodox'. Only this week, I was once again seeing materials that stated 'evidence' indicates that transitional forms provide us with the corroboration required for the theory, but the animation to show this was total conjecture - the actual fossils themselves are not there, and this leaves the same unbreachable gap that Darwin feared in his original research.

It's never easy to give up what we want to be true.
Back in the early 90's, Oliver Stone's 'JFK' appeared to me to present at least enough troubling data to suggest that there was a second 'grassy knoll' gunman, and that this anonymous assassin, not Oswald, had delivered the kill shot, but was that really the issue? I thought so for a long time, but I was recently shown some new ballistic research that verifies how a single shooter could have killed Kennedy from the Dallas book depository, so other theories really are no longer required.

The reason I touch on this is not to dismiss certain issues out of hand in regards to this historic event (Stone's movie still chills me in respect of other matters that appear to surround the killing and the Warren commission), but to highlight what can be proven when we have the materials required and the means to test these to show what can happen.

It is entirely different when it comes to evolution.

Without the essential hard data from the fossil record, there simply is no evidence to support the supposition that one species gradually evolved from another.
Stephen J Gould was totally honest about this when he noted "can we invent a reasonable sequence of intermediate forms - that is, viable, functioning organisms - between ancestors and descendants in major structural transitions. I submit it may reflect my lack of imagination, that the answer is no". Gould is saying that merely trying to invent such a process by using imagination, he cannot see how it can be done. That is the cardinal reality the theory faces - the cupboard is quite literally bare of evidence.

That would be bad enough, but the revolution that's taken place in molecular biology has truly deepened the dilemma, and is bringing scientists to a point of seeing that other, astonishing processes are at work in nature that have nothing to do with the survival requirements of natural selection.

The real shocks come in life when we recognize the full ramifications of what we're witnessing before our eyes, and experiencing a crucial shift in ourselves as a result.

When Jesus talked to Nicodemus, he cut off all this 'teacher of Israel' thought he knew about  God and righteousness and zero'd-in on the very truth that was supposed to be at the heart of his own religion, but Nicodemus was oblivious to it (John 3: 3-14. See also Jeremiah 31:31-34).

When we advocate an orthodoxy that nullifies the full nature of truth, we kill ourselves and others, so we must be careful, on every subject, to speak the full truth. What troubles me so often, not only concerning worldly "truth", but orthodoxy amongst 'teachers' of Christianity, is that they are guilty of stifling the richness and the freedom that the Good News of God being Creator and Redeemer brings because they seek to impose unbiblical restraints on theology amongst us and thereby impede our life with God and each other.

Let me conclude this entry with an illustration.

One of the most important examples of this is given in the story of Jesus out walking with His disciples on a sabbath (Matthew 12). The religious police were keeping an eye on them (probably ready to pounce in judgement if they took one step beyond 'a Sabbath's journey' (see Acts 1:12). The disciples, walking across a field, no doubt did something quite natural to them - they plucked some of the ears of corn there...

Gotcha!
Instantly, the Pharisees attack (verse 2) - look, they cry, work on the sabbath! These men are nothing but law-breakers.

They are so blind to the real picture of what the truth of the law points to, so eager to trap anyone who is not on the same page as them with regards to what is orthodox, that they jump without understanding.

Jesus quickly not only shows from their own history why their interpretation is wrong (verses 3 & 4) but how the very law itself negates their interpretation (verse 5), but finally, that all of this is of minor important to what is actually unfolding before their eyes (verses 6 & 7). The fulness of the Godhead, as Paul would later write, bodily, was there for them to see, hear and know, and yet their framework was denying them a revelation of the most important moment in all of time and space.

Is your 'orthodoxy', secular, religious, reformed or otherwise, doing the same?
Are you someone enjoying that conversation with the one who makes everything wonderful in its time, or are you on the sidelines, merely waiting for an opportunity to dismiss because the determinations of self require it?

The gateway of truth is narrow not because it negates a relationship that encompasses all things, but because it demands an ending of an ego that will not pass through its requirement to become new. The Cross alone opens the tomb and the fellowship of resurrection.

There is, sure and certain, a better way for each of us in Jesus Christ.



Friday, 28 July 2017

S t a s i s

"What a week I'm having!!!"
Walter Kornbluth - Splash.

It's been one of those weeks... isn't it so often?

But why? Why does so much of life seem to just stand still, even go nowhere, whilst other things, (like months and years) rush past?

I was certainly having one of those weeks this past 24 hours, and wasn't even sure how to deal with it, when I looked at Mockingbird's new articles on the bus to work...
and found a piece that grabbed my attention.

I won't say any more than if you're having a week like mine, have a read of Ethan Richardson's 'When God leaves it unresolved'. It won't solve the issues, but it will tell you why you and me are where we are.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The rewards of uncomfortable conversations

'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks'.
Proverbs 4:23

The tweet said it all.
"Someday, not now, I'd like to have a real conversation".
How many others who are never devoid of their technology these days could say the same?

People spend inordinate amounts of time talking.
Is that really conversing?


It costs to really talk.


Thoughts, feelings, opinions, they all become exchanged, but are you getting closer, deeper, further into knowing who you're talking to by what's being exchanged...?

Is there something more that could be, should be said, but never is?


Conversation truly happens when it discloses the who, the core of me.

Conversation is dangerous.

Once, there was a man, crippled, waiting for a cure to his ailment.
He thought he was in the right place, he just needed the right moment, the right conditions, to take the final step, and...

For years, it was always the same. The moment just never came.
However close it sometimes seemed to be, he was still here, no different.
Like everyone else in this place of longing, he was locked inside the never-changing truth.
However much he wanted to be whole... he was still crippled inside.

Today was different. 
Someone new was beside him, really talking to Him... asking him to do the very thing he'd longingly thought about, dreamed about, but never realized.

This one, this whole person, was making it happen, giving him the strength to get up, to leave the convalescence of his broken self and find a health that, moments ago, was impossible.

A conversation happened, and life changed.

The event didn't end there, because there were plenty ready to jump on the one who had spoken so deeply, and tell him you can't do that - actually 'speak' to someone. Why, what would happen if you keep on doing that?

We'd hear deeper, clearer, than we ever thought we could.

Our world is restless in it's chatter.

Are we ready for a conversation?

The one who heals, who truly speaks is waiting.

"You search, but you cannot see what needs to found - needs to be heard.
You cannot hear me.
The very things you search are telling you this, but you cannot hear it.

When you hear me, everything will change".

(Jesus - The Gospel of John chapter 5).

This same Jesus is beside you right now.
The conversation begins when you're ready....

to really talk.