Friday, March 31, 2006

"...for the Bible tells me so"

The famous Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth is sometimes quoted with approval by conservative evangelicals for his answer to a journalist's request to summarize his 6 million word long Church Dogmatics. Barth thought for a moment and then said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Barth's beguiling response though hides a rather more sophisticated view of Christian scripture:

"The Bible is God's Word to the extent that God causes it to be his Word, to the extent that he speaks through it."
(Church Dogmatics I/1, p. 109).


Barth would have argued that making claims about biblical inerrancy the foundation of theology is to take a foundation other than Jesus Christ and thus to exercise a form of idolatry.

(With thanks to the often illuminating Faith and Theology blogspot and Barth's Wikipedia entry.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Beer & Salvation


Thanks to Rory for this. And I home-brew...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Little Laynesmith #2


Matthew Simon Reuben born 1.50am, 28th March, 8 lb 3 oz.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

10. A man's place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

This came from Maggi Dawn's blog and beyond...

Deo Gratias


Kember and colleagues released

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tolkien meets St Benedict


We take a reconnaissance trip to the Anglican Benedictine Community at Elmore Abbey on the outskirts of Newbury today to explore it as a possible place for future staff/student retreats. We make the wonderful discovery there of their oratory. None of the wood in it, green oak, was cut down; all of it fell naturally. Not a single nail went into the timber frame's construction; all is wooden peg construction. I'm sure Tolkien would have approved, it reminds me of Beorn's house in The Hobbit! Or perhaps something from Lothlorien.

The community are now pretty small - only 6 men, but a larger oblate community. We were welcomed by a wonderful monk who looked and spoke like Donald Sutherland. I think the Chaplaincy are just going to have to try and pull this one off, it'd be too good to miss.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Toddler Theology II

"Time for a nappy change, James".
"No, I'm working," he says stubbornly (echoes of comments by work-from-home parents!).
"What work is that?"
"I'm bouncing and sliding," he replies seriously.

With such delight for play/work, so says God's Wisdom:

"The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world...
Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind."

Proverbs 8

Made in the Image of...

This morning's sermon had a wonderful interlude about an on-line celebrity face recognition program. Apparently the preacher was 65% Hugh Grant.

We tried it with a picture of our (white) toddler. Apparently he is 49% Oprah Winfrey!

Tom Fox RIP


A while ago we received the terrible news about the murder of Tom Fox. Tom was a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. His colleague, John Lynes spoke at the university only two weeks back. John wrote a few days ago:

"I have been moved by all the messages of condolence that have reached me since the death of my friend Tom Fox. All last week I was frozen in depression. I now realise my anguish was a remote reflection of Tom's last days.

On Friday the depression lifted. On Saturday I was to give a talk in Preston about the Christian Peacemaker Teams Ten minutes before the talk I heard the dreadful news. I went outside and wept, but I struggled on through three successive days of lectures as Tom would have wished.

My mourning has been overtaken by grateful memories of happier times with Tom in Chicago, Hebron, Jayyous and At-Tuwani. He will continue to inspire his many friends in America, in Palestine and in Iraq. May his memory hasten the completion of the work to which he dedicated himself, for the captives in Iraqi prisons and for their families."

John keeps a blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Toddler Theology


My wife is reading a lift-the-flap Bible story book with my two-year-old. They come to a picture of Mary and the baby Jesus.

"Jesus came out of Mary's tummy," says my wife.

My son is scornful. "Jesus came out of God's tummy".

Perhaps nonsense to most of us, but not so to the 17 bishops attending the Eleventh Council of Toledo (675) who began the account of their proceedings by restating their belief in God as Trinity.

Included within their Creed was the phrase that Jesus was born of the 'womb of the Father' (de Patris utero).

"We must believe that the Son is begotten or born not from nothing or from any other substance, but from the womb of the Father, that is from His substance."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

More Faithful Clergy

On the subject of faithful priests, another RS Thomas discovery:

The Country Clergy

I see them working in old rectories
By the sun's light, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little green
With holy mildew. And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels. They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men's hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
or out of time will correct this.

Ministry in South Africa

A priest friend working in South Africa writes:

"Doing my second funeral out here on Sat - both were young women with children who hung themselves. Police said it was third one that day. I've also visited 3 young women in hospital who failed in their attempts. Poverty, AIDS stigma, and gender inequality take their toll here..."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Christian Peacemaker Teams

I pick up the retiring (but not yet retired!) 78 year old Quaker peace activist John Lynes at Reading Station. I pass on the news to him which he has not heard, that Al Jazeera have just broadcast a video featuring John's Christian Peacemaker Team colleague Norman Kember (held hostage in Iraq since November 05). John is relieved but also concerned that one of the hostages, an American, does not feature on the video.

I have invited John to the University to speak about Norman, and about his own work in Hebron. John talks with quiet balanced wisdom about the international situation and about the work Norman was doing before his capture (ironically enough, monitoring the abuse of prisoners in Abu Graib prison). And then John mentions his own activities in Palestine.

With consummate fairness to both Palestinian and Israeli, John speaks about how the conflict shapes lives (soldiers, militants, civilians) and how political posturing forces one's enemies into taking unhelpful positions.

And then after all the wise commentary, John finishes by telling us very quietly about what his team does in Hebron. It is very simple. In part his colleagues escort Palestinian school children through an illegal Israeli settlement on their way to school who would otherwise risk physical attack. As it is the Peacemaker Team members themselves sustain injuries - broken arms, a punctured lung - from settlers who wish them gone.

John's witness is very humbling, his talk inspiring, and his realism sobering: it is with such small, just, risky actions that lives are changed for the better. John tells us with a gentle smile that the UN believe the CPT presence south of Hebron has made the Israeli government stick to its legal boundaries in the construction of its new 'barrier'. And he proudly shows us a picture of a half-finished medical centre that exists because his team are present. Such images sit alongside photos of carcasses of Palestinian-owned goats, poisoned by the nearby settlers. Peacemaking is a work in progress. Blessed are those who are pursuing it.

John's own blog is at http://slowandstubborn.blogspot.com/
CPT Hebron's link http://www.cpt.org/hebron/hebron.php

Monday, March 06, 2006

Facing the Truth

I've just had the privilege of watching a remarkable piece of television over two nights. Under the chairmanship of Desmond Tutu victims and perpetrators from the Northern Irish conflict have sat down opposite each other, told their stories and asked questions of each other. The programmes were full of little, hard-won miracles of understanding. The remarkable Tutu blessed the various encounters with his beaming smile and well-measured words of encouragement.

Tutu himself interprets the truth and reconciliation process as the outworking of Ubuntu: the concept that "I need you to be you, so that I can be I". None of us can live isolated lives; the fabric of communication when rent must be attempted to be re-woven. And this for Tutu is the outworking of Gospel Truth. How impressive to see Christian faith engaged with the profoundest of healing processes. Here was salt and light for the world.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/programmes/?id=facing_truth

Sunday, March 05, 2006

New Tesco Super Deal

Free toddler with each purchase.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Melifluous Reading


A lovely line (to a priest who has kept bees) from RS Thomas on hearing the Bible read in Welsh:

'Now in a mountain parish
The words leave the Book
To swarm in the honeyed mind
Of Morgan.'

From On Hearing a Welshman Speak.

Faith At Work


A friend from church has addressed our little student Christian Action and Thought group tonight. Stuart is an entrepreneur engaged in transformational business and a superbly inspiring story-teller. He connects his Christian faith to his business acumen to create companies that bring radical benefit to their employees - principally in the ex-Soviet Republic of Moldova. A lovely phrase of his summed up the whole evening
'redeeming trade from grubby men'.
Stuart is one of the few Christians I have come across who has consciously found a way to allow his faith and his work to interact without retreating into a Christian ghetto or else compartmentalizing his life into sacred and profane. Astonishingly rare.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday


Sabine, my Roman Catholic colleague, and I today led a short lunchtime service for Ash Wednesday (the start of 'Lent', the reflective time leading up to Easter). As well as showing some stunning images - including this one from the Hubble Telescope to show our origins as star dust - we used a wonderful track by the Canadian artist Sarah McLachlan for that part of the service where we reflected on human fallenness.

Fallen - Sarah McLachlan

Heaven bend to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight
Truth be told I tried my best
But somewhere long the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
But the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so low
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

We all begin out with good intent
When love is raw and young
We believe that we can change ourselves
The past can be undone
But we carry on our back the burdens time always reveals
In the lonely light of morning
In the wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
I've held so dear

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so lowI messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

Heaven bend to take my hand
I've nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to these I thought were friends
To everyone I know
Oh they turn their heads embarrassed
Pretend that they don't see
That it's one wrong step one slip before you know it
And there doesn't seem away to be redeemed

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so low I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

(if you follow the link here you can even listen to a version: http://www.sarahmclachlan.com/)


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