Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Without looking away

"So you see, long before the tragedies of our times, the modern age was preparing itself for life
without God. We were not the first generation to wonder, 'is there anyone there?'...
Religion, especially in America, is now a form of therapy - a revelation of what we need rather than of God and our real need of Him". Michael Horton - too good to be true.

I was searching around on i Tunes this week when I came across a song I first heard around twelve years ago.

The lyrics are worthy of serious thought:

"You've got this place you go, it's just a trip before the fall,
way past the fever pitch, but just a spit from the wrecking ball.

Said you woke up this morning, said you woke up under a curse,
I've heard the blues are bad, but this is something worse.

And the ambulance driver, well he tips his hat and stares,
and he asks you in a grave voice, can I take you anywhere.

yes the thing we cannot speak of, too painful to behold,
oh this blister soul, this blister soul!"

(Blister Soul by the Vigilantes of Love).

The song continues to describe the cost of our condition, the awful secret we all carry, and how there is a cost to such a horror unless we embrace the remedy.
As one reviewer put it, this harrowing yet triumphant track nails what we are, drawing it out of the darkness to the pain yet necessity of the light...It is the starting point of everyone's burden but equally the moment of introducing us to hope.

The light of the Gospel casts a dark shadow - the reality of the human condition, for only then can we see the necessity, the extraordinary need, we all share for the remedy.
When we gaze soberly into this revelation, then we will begin to see why Christ is the answer to the darkness.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Total Neglect

"Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true".

Sometimes in life it can be real hard to look in the mirror and face the truth. Most of us know what it's like to have to begin to deal with some painful reality about ourselves or those we love, to face a hardship or a trial that can leave us drained and yearning for a way out. Certain distractions in the midst of such struggles - a few hours entertainment or a much needed few days away - can indeed prove good in helping to re-gain our footing. A deeper trouble, however, can occur when we seek to completely exchange such a fantasy world for reality, to essentially flee from the truth about our world.

The great problem with such lies resides not only in the thing we express in that moment - a desire, perhaps, to be something other than we are (richer, safer, healthier, more popular) - but the myth that so often underpins such an expression: that we ARE or can be so. It tells us so much about a deceit so common to our race.

Whilst watching a discussion programme this morning, a popular actor expressed the popular myths of our age:

1.That science has proved that God is a fabrication.
2.That Jesus was merely a good man - a moral teacher.

What is so annoying about these lies is that they are derived from pure myth - a hermetically sealed understanding of the world which simply refuses to engage with facts (scientific and historical) which 'inconveniently' point in the entirely opposite direction.

A battle royal is about to begin in the scientific community because the public are about to discover that many scientists have been gaged in the last decade simply because they have sought to draw attention to empirical data which strongly suggests we are not here by chance. Biblical scholarship has clearly put the case for a historical reality between the Jesus recorded in the gospels and the man Himself, yet we continue to seek to detach Christ from the message and the deeds of these invaluable records.

We simply cannot face up to what's before us.

It's time to look further than ourselves, further than notions of a 'divinity' that merely panders to the status quo. God has broken into the illusion of an empty cosmos, and the shock of this cannot be overlooked, however shocking the consequences.

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.

C S Lewis

Coming Soon:

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Into the Depths

"Theology is like a map. Merely thinking and learning about this is less real and less exciting than encountering the reality the map conveys. The map must be used to get somewhere (theology is practical), and where it takes us is to Christ -
not a moral teacher, but the Son of God".

Paraphrased from Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.

Carrying on from my last entry here, I seek to provoke thoughts about the realities of our world via a piece of fiction I've written...


"I am body and soul - so speaks the child. And why should one not speak as Children?"

The road from the temple gate to this outer part of the city was hard at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. Night had fallen, bringing with it those who most profit from the darkness. It was not wise to be out here, alone, but there had been no choice.

Careful to avoid the streets where he would have been recognized and turning where trouble resided, the old scholar hurried back from the appointed place. It had been half a lifetime since he had been to this forsaken quarter, but the events of the past few days had prompted his actions.

Bustling along, his breath ragged, he wished his agitated thoughts could become as still as the night air. Life had been far more straightforward before the reports had begun. And then -and then...
He stopped, willing his racing heart and pensive reflections to ease.
He was a teacher. He understood the way things were; the mechanics of the observable. He had come expecting to meet a kindred soul, had come with all the right questions - the ones that mattered, and had left with so many more.

A gentle breeze brushed his flushed cheeks, furrowed brow and grey beard.
He tried once more to gather his shaken reflections, to remember the crux of the conversation of not an hour before. Words and images played in an almost cruel manner on the outskirts of his thoughts. He struggled, like one stranded in the midst of a thick forest, desperate for direction. Audibly exhaling , his reflections became focused, the matter of the evening beginning to take form, exorcising his solitude.
Birth, death, wind, spirit, evil, truth, darkness, light. The cacophony of concepts englobed his attention and rewarded his weary toil.

Is this what had so unsettled him? Mere words from another man.
He had encountered many who thought themselves enlightened, had skilfully debated the best of his own. In all of this, he had never encountered such a display of wisdom, of insight. It reached far above and beyond the learning of any he had studied or previously engaged.

He trembled.

His thoughts were broken by a group of 'pilgrims' making their way to part of the district. He scurried into an adjoining, darker alley to avoid them , resting upon a squat wall until they had passed.
Moments expired and the silence returned.
Words assembled and spoke to his mind, carrying with them the strength and thunder of boiling Sinai;

"The Wind blows where it wills, and you cannot tell where it has come from or where it is going".

His anxious gaze focused upon some particles of sand, caught up in the breeze and dancing in the erratic moonlight. Was he little more than such dust? What truly distinguished him, transformed him, into something more than this floating assortment of empty fragments?

"And He formed man of the dust, and breathed into him the breath of life".

The wind bound him. Not the slight breeze upon his cheeks, but the breath which had caressed with care and strength amidst the formless void of creation's dawn. Birth..wind..darkness..light. He looked down at his trembling hands, aghast at both the wonder and the terror of his own form.

"Teacher, learn. All is futility under the sun". And yet, and yet...
"And Yet", he whispered, almost too afraid to say the words he had known since childhood.
"And yet in my flesh, shall I see God!".

The stranger's voice came back with depth and clarity, chastening and challenging him;
"Are you a teacher and you do not understand this? I have spoken to you of common things, and yet you do not understand. How would you believe if I spoke to you of the heavenly?"

The Heavenly. The words were true. One greater than the Prophets had been promised. He had seen, had heard him. The wind was working, dancing within the old scholar's waking soul.
Faith, it is said, is at its best when it leads to understanding. He Smiled.
The wind had once more worked upon the dust.
'Flesh is life because of Spirit. Eternal birth comes only from above'.

The air was cold, the night still, but a new life, as strong as any ocean wave, had begun to arise amidst the sage's old bones; life which raises the soul and redeems dying flesh.

The first rays of dawn fractured the black as he returned to the temple.
He gazed for a moment upon the glow, knowing that the light which had nurtured the earth before the first sunrise had risen once more, never to set amidst Adam's wind-touched sons.

For further reading, see John 3:1-21.

There is, I believe, what Lewis referred to, a 'still point' in history, and it was the life and death of this person - a life and death which defines our reality.
There are essentially two ways we can look upon and relate to life, but only one can finally be correct...

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Advancing with certainty.

"Here, we not only show how the past, present and future hinge upon one unfolding plan,
but the relation of these things to eternity - the impact that the everlasting has upon us, imprisoned in this moment".

The Interpreter - A New Pilgrim's Progress by Geoffrey Bull.

Philosophy is the forum of questions about ourselves, and Science the arena of seeking to define certain physical realities, but neither field ever leaves us in a place of profound meaning regarding our moments here - they can hint or suggest, but every such notion can (probably) be countered by an alternative argument or view - not exactly a 'manufacturer's guide' then.

Philosophy deems knowledge as a 'justified true belief' (justified because there is some basis in what we deem reality to hold such a view). Science takes a similar approach - an idea (hypothesis) is tested to see if there are viable grounds for saying if something is so, an affirmation allowing the development of a theory about how something operates, but key too all of this accumulation is one thing - our perception of what we can understand of the world by means of our senses. The issue which both Philosophy and Science must face is that such an understanding (as provided by such means) fails to meet the most deepest questions we hold, for like the universe itself, the answer does not appear to be held in what is merely defined as 'fact' by such approaches (a word itself, which derives from a term which means, 'to fabricate').

Some years ago, I recall watching an intriguing and pretty disturbing conspiracy theory movie, The Parallax View. The film certainly has 'layers' regarding what is seen as 'reality', but the key scene (which I'll link to below), is when our 'hero' - a reporter played by Warren Beatty - seeks to infiltrate an organization that is involved in political destabilisation. He undergoes a fascinating 'programming' session using visual stimuli. The movie never tells us who they are working for, or even why, it merely seeks to challenge our acceptance of the 'status quo'.

Whether such 'games' of move and counter move actually occur is not the point. The Christian world-view is that we are all victims of a 'parallax' obscuring of the world when it comes to reality. We can assimilate all kinds of 'knowledge' (justified belief) about what goes on around us, and yet reach a totally wrong conclusion about who and what we are.

There are other ways to look... and that's what I'll touch on in my next blog.

Link: The Parallax View Scene.