Thursday, April 30, 2009

In the loop


Made me laugh out loud several times, which I definitely needed, but in the end felt it was a bit insubstantial - rather like Salman Rushdie's cream cakes, naughty but nice. It would also have benefited from something to contrast with the relentlessly cynical tone. Good though. 3.5/5

The curse of the Law

This is a comment I left here, in argument with Rhology, which I wanted to preserve.

Is 'the curse of the Law' just about the Mosaic Law, or is it about all possible Laws anywhere? In other words, when God promises that in the New Covenant people will no longer tell each other 'follow the Law' because they will have the law written in their own hearts, is this describing a potentially universal spiritual truth (we won't need to rely on external Laws to guide us because we will have awakened consciences) or is it simply that the Law of Moses will have been 'programmed in' to all members of the Covenant?

I'm quite certain it is the former - in other words, Jesus awakens our consciences and gives us room to grow into the fullness of truth (I have some things to tell you that you cannot bear to hear now). This awakening comes from being set free from the fear of having to conform to this external code - because we all fall short of the glory of God and therefore any written code can end up (through the workings of guilt) depriving us of the freedom which is God's intention for us. More than this, Jesus several times gives the disciples authority to make their own decisions about sin - in other words we have the authority to decide what is a sin and what is not a sin.

It seems to me that, through being literalistic about what St Paul says, you miss the crucial spiritual teaching he is putting across. In other words, you have made "The Bible" into a new Law - Old Testament theology in New Testament clothes - and if St Paul were alive today I'm sure he would be talking about 'the curse of the Bible', were it not for the fact that most people don't use the Bible in this way. Because of this, you can't help but keep exposing your underlying fear of human sinfulness, including your own. The whole point of Christ's dying and rising again is to set us free from this process. We don't have to be afraid of our own sin any more, and consequently, we don't have to worry about whether our interpretations of Scripture are corrupted by our own sinfulness - of course they will be, and it doesn't matter. We're either going to be relying on our own judgements (and our own judgements INCLUDE deciding that Scripture is 'inerrant' in whatever denominational way you want to understand that) or else we are going to be relying on the Spirit to guide us and the wounds of Christ to hide us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TBTM20090429


If this is true I'd be a) delighted, b) surprised, and c) prepared to look at Obama in a whole new light.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cleaner


Came back late from work and flopped in front of the TV expecting to just watch the news headlines and go to bed. Instead, caught the first 30 seconds of this and got hooked. Lots of good things about it, but it was let down in the end by a predictable plot. Well worth seeing though - and I couldn't believe that the director was Renny Harlin; the direction was much more artful than I would have expected from him. 4/5

TBTM20090427


There are only finite resources in the world, but population continues to grow. How will this situation resolve itself? This was a question a group of scientists (Meadows et al), commissioned by the "Club of Rome," attempted to answer back in 1972, in a book called Limits to Growth...the predictions from 1972 were surprisingly accurate, considering how long ago they were made

TBTM20090426


Excellent Alasdair MacIntyre talk here (scroll down). H/T to the Paul who recently arrived here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Attitudes to the EU


An interesting quiz.

The Bible is a perfect Bible

Another little spat about inerrancy going on in the blogosphere, which I've got caught up with here (well, it was my day off - and it's relevant to my Learning Supper talk this coming Sunday night).

I just wanted to share a more positive thought: the Bible is perfect for what it is.

The reason why I dislike language of 'inerrancy' is because it brings in the idea that scientific truth is the highest standard of truth (and this is clear if you explore the origin of the fundamentalist movement in the United States - they wanted the 'most scientific' form of authority).

For me, because I see other forms of knowledge as being more important, most especially personal knowledge, it is not a problem to the overall authority of the Bible to say that it errs on matters of scientific fact (eg Jesus saying that the mustard seed is the smallest of all possible seeds).

This requires discrimination as to genre, and the avoidance of turning mythological material into scientific material (eg Genesis 1-11).

It also means that the divergent voices in the Scriptures, running all the way through the Biblical accounts, is a facet of the perfection of the Bible, not a flaw. It is perfect because it contains contradictions, because that is what God wanted it to be.

In other words, I think that the Bible is an inspired and authoritative collection of Scriptures, which perfectly accomplishes what God wants it to accomplish. I just disagree that this means that it is inerrant in the fundamentalist sense.

Obligatory Wittgenstein quote: "God has four people recount the life of his incarnate Son, in each case differently and with inconsistencies. Is this not just in order that the literal word is not taken too seriously, and that the spirit may be given its due? In other words a mediocre account is to be preferred..."

The Bible is a finger pointing at the moon. It points perfectly to the moon. The problem comes when people insist on making the finger into the moon: they search the Scriptures for eternal life, but they don't find the one in whom that eternal life rests.

The Invasion


Recorded this ages ago but hadn't watched it due to low expectations - but it was a very solid sci-fi thriller, with a couple of good spooky moments. 3.5/5

TBTM20090424


Picture is an explanation for Ricey. I liked the red/white colouring yesterday....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mixed Obama


First, the really good: opening up to Cuba, which is putting right decades of malfeasance. (Though I should add I think that the US has more to gain from Cuba than otherwise.)

Second, the really mixed: his approach to the torture memos and so on. Closing Guantanomo (or at least _promising_ to!) - that's good. Saying the army can't torture people, that's good. Getting into political triangulation about 'it was wrong but we won't prosecute' - and _without_ a truth and reconciliation process either - that's crap. It's an issue of principle, you're either on the side of the angels or you're not. I suspect he's not (ie he's a politician to the core - doh!)

Third, the really bad: everything related to the capturing of economic policy by the Wall Street insiders who got us into this mess. I'd really love Obama to come out soon and say 'hey, this is not right, we need draw some lines in the sand' (= make Goldman Sachs bankrupt). Sadly, I am less and less expectant that he will. Which means that the really historic realignment of the US will fall to his successor (and I still think it possible that it will be Palin [grin].)

TBTM20090423


Cry God for Harry, England and St George!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Doomsday


Had low expectations for this but absolutely loved it. Accurately described as a cross between 'Escape from New York' and 'Mad Max 2' (but set in Scotland) this pushed all the right buttons for someone who grew up watching those films, but it also had one or two moments of original genius. I hope there is a sequel.

4/5

TBTM20090422


Why aircraft carriers are going the way of the wooden hulled battleship.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story


This worked for me, although whether it would work for people who aren't Johnny Cash fans, and who haven't seen Walk The Line, I'm not sure.
4/5

TBTM20090418


Approaching normality. Nice to have a few more days off.

Today's link: 50 things every 18 year old should know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TBTM20090415


There won't be any more posts for a few days as I'm being whisked away to the woods. Unless I can work out mobile blogging (and keep my mobile away from my better half...!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In the kingdom of the blind...


...the one eyed man is King!

Under instructions to avoid sunlight due to nasty scratch on eyeball acquired whilst bouncing on trampoline with children yesterday. Getting better quickly PTL.

Today's link is a local one: Mersea Food and Drink Festival, coming soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Alleluia


And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead,
love has won,
Christ has conquered.



And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Heartbreak Kid


Annoying, pointless and lacking in any consistent characterisation. I was going to call it 'stupid' but then I realised that I was probably stupid for expecting a coherent script from the Farrelly brothers. Avoid.

2.5/5

TBTM20090411 Holy Saturday


"Becalmed" - which I think is quite an appropriate image for Holy Saturday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How should Christians respond to Peak Oil?

I've written a pamphlet on the how Christians should respond to Peak Oil, and it has been published by the Diocese of Worcester: it can be downloaded as a .pdf file here. If you've read my other stuff on Peak Oil it won't contain much that is new (some new analogies perhaps) but if you're new to it then it's the best place to begin.

I have some spare printed copies if there is anyone on Mersea who wants one.

Good Friday 2009


This is my friend
in whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend

Thursday, April 09, 2009

How to graduate from Christianity

Here.

Despite finding myself seriously disagreeing with him on a lot of things, I still read Steve Pavlina because he makes me think. He has some totally bonkers moments in this one though - and I find it somewhat ironic that his final conclusive crescendo is all about unconditional love - I wonder where he got that from?

Perhaps it would have been better entitled 'how to graduate from Modern American Protestantism'.

These atheists...

"The wonderful thing about the atheist movement in this country is that it shows how all the vices that made religion repulsive can flourish in the complete absence of supernatural belief. The fruits of the movement are hypocrisy, humourlessness, meanness of spirit and triumphalist ignorance, all in the service of a determination that no one anywhere shall enjoy any pleasure or thought that is not approved by them."

Agreed with this article; more engaged with it than usual because last night I dreamt of being told by a doctor that I only had months to live.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens


Good fun. 3.5/5

TBTE20090408




And I bumped into James as well:


Causes and Consequences of the Oil Shock

Prof James Hamilton argues for the oil shock (ie Peak Oil) being the cause of the present recession - here and here: "had there been no increase in oil prices between 2007:Q3 and 2008:Q2, the U.S. economy would not have been in a recession over the period 2007:Q4 through 2008:Q3."

The Good Morning Liturgy
or, should the president ever smile at the congregation?

Pursuing this topic further; first, something I wrote shortly after getting to Mersea in 2003:

I thought I should set out why I think [beginning with 'good morning'] is a liturgical mistake, ie a matter of theology rather than a question of style. (So many things are just stylistic, but I think this is more important, even if it's not a "salvation issue"!) ...It boils down to the question of priorities, and what worship is for. If worship is primarily about giving praise to God then God should be given the first priority, and the set liturgical greeting should be used as the first words spoken (ie normally 'The Lord be with you' - the 'In the name of...' is an optional additional greeting, and IS more a matter of stylistic preference). That way it is clear from the very beginning that it is an act of worship that the people have been gathered together for. What happens after that can then be set out once the overall tone/ priority has been established.

The 'good morning' liturgy sets the priority as being the fellowship of the community - an acknowledgement of (celebration of?) the gathering together - and a focussing of attention upon that. So at best it is placing love of neighbour above love of God - which can sometimes be right when in the world, loving God through loving the neighbour and so on - but not in the context of worship which is all about directing our attention wholly upon God. Beginning the service with a 'good morning', whilst more comfortable and more easily accessible is also more conforming to the world - it is customary in various different settings (schools, businesses etc) and its use doesn't mark out this particular set time and space for worship in the way that the liturgical greeting does. More importantly, when the liturgical greeting comes after a 'good morning' it takes on the appearance of an afterthought - the important stuff has been said, now we've just got to get this
bothersome God-business out of the way. It is about what priority we give to acknowledging God as the focus of worship.

From a useful book I possess:

"The president's initial task is to greet the people. There are few bolder statements with which to open an assembly than 'The Lord be with you'. These greetings need no supplementaries. For that reason, and for that reason alone, secular greetings such as 'Good morning' only serve to dumb down the Eucharist, as if the president were the compere of some sort of chat-show, patronizing the rest of the community. Aidan Kavanagh puts it best: 'Since one would prefer not to entertain the possibility that the secular greeting is a mark of clerical condescension to the simple and untutored laity, the only alternative is to attribute the secular greeting's use to presidential thoughtlessness of a fairly low order'."


I've softened somewhat since writing that; not at all in thinking that beginning with 'good morning' is legitimate, but in accepting the 'good morning' as part of the opening elements - and I certainly don't agree with that final extract any more.

Fundamentally I see following up the liturgical greetings with a 'good morning', or (which I would normally do) a 'welcome to our celebration of communion here this morning' as being about putting people at their ease (particularly, but not exclusively, any newcomers). Now this might seem trivial - "we're here to worship God! This is a terrifying thing! People shouldn't be at their ease!" - but actually I think there is something essential here about the nature of Christian worship.

Let me ask this question: is it ever appropriate for the president to smile at the gathered congregation?

It seems to me that one consistent answer would be to say 'No' - the focus of attention for the entire congregation, including clergy, should be God alone - and any direct interaction between president and people is a distraction from this. Hence: a strict adherence to the liturgy alone; a pew for the president which is unobtrusive; a purely verbal exchange of peace; and, surely, an Eastward facing celebration. This seems coherent to me, and I can understand the attraction of that form of worship.

However, I don't think it's particularly Christian! We know from the first letter of John that we can't love what is unseen unless we love what we do see - each other. We also know that we are to see the face of Christ in one another, and, therefore, it doesn't make sense to think of human contact as preventing right worship.

There is also the point that the president is in loco Christi, particularly at communion (one reason why it is essential that ordination not be restricted to one type of humanity). The president necessarily carries authority within the congregation and sets the tone for the worship whether s/he wishes to or not (for better or for worse). The question is therefore is the president representing an austere and remote God or an approachable, incarnational one?

So I see setting people at ease as non-trivial (this whole issue is non-trivial) and it is important to make the choice about which pattern to go with. My concern with the more strict/traditionalist Anglo-Catholic perspective is that it becomes mechanical with all the humanity drained out of it - the very definition of 'empty ritual'. My concern on the other hand with the 'good morning liturgy' remains as before - it evacuates any sense of the sacred. It seems to me that if we are worshipping an incarnate God then there is a creative balance to be found between these two extremes, and that is what I aim for. Essentially, if it is legitimate to smile at the congregation - ie have at least that level of human interaction - then the whole shift to a less formal pattern follows along with it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Peckham, on a wet Saturday afternoon

At the healing conference I attended on Saturday there was a group from a church in Peckham who do 'healing in the streets'.

I just couldn't get this out of my head, so I'm glad I've now found it!


It was a good talk btw.

The Vatican gets a bit Meldrew

Priests must not say 'good morning' to their congregation.

Which I have to admit I completely agree with. I always say 'Good morning' once I've begun the service with 'in the name of....', which establishes the context. It is, of course, possible to go too far in the other direction and render a service completely inhuman and mechanical.

Don't agree with the other change mentioned at the end of the article though - seems to leave the priest out of the shared invocation.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Crooked Little Vein (Warren Ellis)


Doing therapy is, in large part, about getting friendlier with your dark side; Warren Ellis is my dark side. Quite enjoyable, albeit eye-poppingly shocking at times, and definitely not for the easily offended.

A bonus TBTE


Just because I can - a meeting got cancelled :)

Ben Myers on Led Zeppelin.

Read this!

++John on Englishness.
Marvellous.

TBTM20090405


Not Ollie - but if you look at the horizon closely you can see that the 'tripods' have put up their first wind turbine. Lovely jubbly.

What? You want a link as well? OK, here 'tis: a fisking of Obama's speech on the auto industry.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Knowing


Imagine a Left Behind film shot by M Night Shyamalan on a good day. Deeply unorthodox, otherwise it would have got a 5.
4/5

UPDATE: (I held off from reading it until I'd seen it, but I see +Alan picks up the Shyamalan feel too. And no, I don't know what the bunnies meant, unless there was something about 'breeding like...' intended.)

TBTE20090404


One day I'll write about the theology of this song. But not tonight.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rambo


Astonishingly, viscerally violent - virtually misanthropic. If this was an episode in a TV series it would have been quite a good one, but not quite enough plot for a whole movie. Much better than 2 or 3, but not a patch on First Blood, which remains one of my favourite films ever. 3.5/5

40FP(18): John 12.44-46

44 Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Why is this a favourite passage?
I see this as the basic claim of Christianity - in Jesus we see God.

As will become clear as this series goes on, John is my favourite gospel (even though I accept it is less historically 'straight' than the others). This passage comes at what is effectively the mid-point of the book, the turning point of the gospel as a whole. Up until this time John has been describing Jesus' public ministry - the signs of power that Christ accomplished to give a witness to his nature, so, the turning of water into wine, overturning the tables in the temple, the feeding of five thousand, the raising of Lazarus and so on. From this point Jesus' public ministry is complete, and the remainder of the gospel has two elements - Jesus teaching the disciples in what is called the 'farewell discourse', and then the story of Holy Week. So this text is a hinge - it looks back to Christ's public ministry, and forward to his teaching of the disciples.

I would pick out three elements from the text. The first is that there is continuity between the Father and the Son - Christ is the way to the Father. If this wasn't true then Christianity would be idolatrous - the raising up of a creature to the rank of creator.

The second is verse 45 which underlies the theology of icons, as used in the Eastern Orthodox churches. Think of looking through Christ, as you look through a window - for Christ is wholly transparent to God, when you look at him, you look at the one who sent him.

Finally we have the 'mission statement' from Christ - I have come into the world as light, that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness. Christ illuminates our lives; he shows us the nature of God and of humanity - and so our own nature becomes clearer as a result. Our way becomes clearer, a way which Christ shows to us in his own life. The question is whether we turn towards the light or away from the light. The Christian calling as disciples is to trust in the light so that we might become children of light - and then we will be transparent to God too; living icons of the Father.

TBTM20090403


The 3 laws may not be enough.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

TBTE20090401


Green porno, starring Isabella Rosselini.

TBTM20090401


Did Darwin kill God?
Haven't seen it yet, but it would seem to make the same arguments that I've been making (along with others!) for some time. UK viewers only, unfortunately.

As for me, I'm approaching, though not yet attaining, normality.