Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Karl Barth's great-granddaughter has created a new Barth website as part of a university project. It's well worth a visit, especially for the nice selection of photos, videos, and audio.
And speaking of Barth, I can't resist reposting this from David Williamson – this is Rowan Williams on Barth's obedient theology:
Somewhere in all of this business of theological education we have to come to terms with that sense of an otherness, an elsewhere – not another place, another realm, another world but that which is not simply on the map of our concerns, our security, our ideas. An obedient theology is one which seeks to be formed by what is there and a holy life is one which lets itself be impacted, be impressed by the will of God. For Karl Barth, that meant of course, that an obedient theologian was someone who was free to be the most dramatic possible nuisance in church and world. Obedient to the otherness of God, such a person would be obedient to no other constraints and no tyranny that could be concocted on the face of the earth.
Monday, 26 March 2012
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
To mark World Poetry Day, the Centre for Public Christianity asked various people to comment on their favourite Christian poems. I talk about John Milton's Paradise Lost, George Herbert's "Love III", and T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" (someone else already beat me to Four Quartets).
The take-home message: "If you want to know what it feels like to be a Christian, read Herbert." Later this year I'll be giving a lecture on George Herbert to the St James Institute in Sydney, and I'm looking forward to it!
Saturday, 17 March 2012
So it's official: Rowan Williams is stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year, and will take up a position as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Her Majesty the Queen is now accepting CVs from interested applicants for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Though no prior experience is necessary, applicants should be strongly motivated, with a proven ability to lead a worldwide communion, work with dangerous animals (including evangelicals and tabloid journalists), reform British society, and generally please everyone at all times. Experience in performing royal weddings and presiding over Lambeth Conferences is also highly desirable. The successful applicant may be required to relocate.
For full details of the salary package, including travel allowance, health benefits, superannuation, and lodgings in a medieval palace, please contact email@example.com.
The Church of England is an equal opportunity employer. Druids and other minorities are especially encouraged to apply. (Women need not apply at this time.)
Thursday, 15 March 2012
There are some things I never discovered until I was in my thirties: single malt scotch, Shakespeare, the Trinitate of Saint Augustine.
For example. The Shakespeare I was made to read when I was a boy – Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew – was all spoiled for me. Even Hamlet is a play that I have never really learned to love, ever since I was forced to read it by an English teacher named Mrs Macey who gave dreary afternoon orations about the archaic words and the imagery of rot and weeds and poison. Harold Bloom has said that Shakespeare will speak to as much of yourself as you are able to bring to him: and at sixteen years of age I was not able to bring very much, so Hamlet was wasted on me. Even when I read it today I am struck by nothing so much as a dull sense of familiarity, like meeting an old classmate you used to know but never really liked.
But then there are the plays I never read until my early thirties – King Lear, Henry IV, Antony and Cleopatra – and they are the great things, the plays that seem to light up everything, quick as stabs of lightning. They speak to more of me, because I had more of myself to bring when I read them.
The other day I read King Lear again, a text whose every syllable seems charged with revelation, bright and burning yet not consumed like the bush that Moses saw, and I was glad I had never read a thing like that when I was a boy, back when I knew nothing of what a grand appalling thing it is to be alive, back when someone like Mrs Macey would have had to explain it to me.
We are always talking about the things we wished we knew when we were young. Important lessons are learned too late, and we feel that everything might have been different, everything better, if only we had learned those things twenty, thirty, forty years ago. But there are some things that it's good you never saw until you had a few lines around your eyes. There are lovely things that grow only in the desert, and there are truths that cannot take root in the fertile soil of youth but only in the harder, drier conditions of a life that has known failure and disappointment and loss and the joys that come slowly.
This week I learned a truth like that, something I might have learned when I was younger, but am glad I never did.
I lay in the sun. I watched. I waited. I paddled. I looked back in fright. I felt the startling huge push. My head was filled with noise. I pushed myself up on my hands. I was very glad and very afraid. From beneath a great weight I dragged my legs up. I wobbled. I tottered. I – stood!
So it was that, at the age of thirty-three, at a place called Moffat Beach, I learned to ride a surfboard.