Sunday, 24 February 2013

Lecture in Adelaide: Rowan Williams and theology in the public square


Tomorrow I'll be heading down to Adelaide to give a commencement lecture for St Barnabas' Theological College. It will be held at St Peter's Cathedral, with a commencement service at 6.30, followed by the public lecture at 7.30. I'll be speaking (gasp) twice, with a homily in the worship service followed by a lecture on "Rowan Williams and Theology in the Public Square." 

For the lecture I'll be suggesting a typology of four main types of public theology:

1. Proclamation (directly presenting the Christian message in the public square)
2. Policy (directly attempting to influence policy or public institutions)
3. Re-description (attempting to show that some aspect of a society or its history is only fully intelligible within a Christian frame of reference)
4. Imagination (a more general attempt to cultivate a rich imaginative vision of the world as seen through Christian eyes)

And I'll try to show that each of these approaches is always pressing towards something beyond itself – towards a public embodiment of the Christian message in particular lives. Here's an excerpt from the last part of the paper:  
To make room for God: that is the final aim of any public theology. To make room for God in human life and room for God in the public square. All our theological speech is gesturing towards this. In the end it is only life itself, a life reoriented around God, that can convey all that Christian faith means. This kind of public engagement is what Williams has called “taking responsibility for God.” In an essay from the new volume on Faith in the Public Square, Williams describes the public religious life as a life that “takes on the task of ensuring a habitation for God,” a life that “offers hospitality to God, so that this place, this identity, becomes a testimony.” Where this occurs, he suggests, one’s life becomes a sign, a word, a living sacred text. It is here that “we begin to learn how to be a sign inhabited by God’s meanings.” And this is what the public square needs most of all: not just more discussion and debate about God, not just a deeper consideration of Christian ideas, but the visible presence of symbolic lives, lives that mean God. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

On finding a diary in the bottom drawer


I was rummaging in the bottom drawer looking for some old papers when I found it. One of those big plain A4 books, rather business-like with its matter-of-fact black cover, red spine, red corners. More like an accounting ledger than a personal diary. Which explains my surprise when I opened it and saw the first page:

A JOURNAL OF READINGS,
(MAINLY THEOLOGICAL)

B. Myers.
July 2002 to July 2004

If you had told me that such a book existed I would never have believed you. I pride myself on being a thoroughly careless, disorderly, haphazard sort of reader. As a matter of principle I allow my reading to be guided by a certain prodigious laziness. I read whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it. I can re-read the same book a hundred times. I can devour an author's complete works in a spasm of devotion and then, as long as I live, never give another moment's thought to that writer or any of their books. I am not the kind of person who keeps a record of the books I read. Would you keep an orderly account of all the occasions in your life when you have sung songs, or drunk wine, or made love? Reading belongs to the domain of the spirit; it is not groceries, not income and expenditure, not the sort of thing that belongs in a black A4 ledger. 

Yet there it was, as plain as day. My own handwriting staring back at me. I had recorded the title of every book I read for two years, and (what is worse) documented my opinions about each one after reading it. I must have been 24, newly married, a student, pimples on my chin, somewhere halfway between a man and a boy. And in those two years I somehow managed to record – I have just counted them – 163 books, 163 sovereign verdicts on the quality of those authors' writing and the correctness of their Views.

It must have been a feverish couple of years. It must have taken a toll on my eyesight. It must have been the time in my life when I first discovered that I could not see the road at night when driving. The first time I drove the car on to the footpath and sat there, bewildered, squinting through the windscreen and trying to find the edges of the road. My astonished surprise when the optometrist handed me my first pair of glasses and all of a sudden the world became clear as a movie, all the edges of things glistening, sharp as knives.

What led me to that bespectacled state? What prompted me to sacrifice my eyesight at such a tender age, reading books all day and (one must presume) staying up half the night to finish them?

Thumbing through the diary I see that mostly it was Karl Barth, all the volumes of Church Dogmatics and anything else I could get my hands on, as well as dozens upon dozens of impressive-sounding tomes of Reformed theology. Seventeenth-century treatises on predestination. A thicket of dull studies in science and religion. Whole truckloads of T. F. Torrance, Emil Brunner, Anselm, Descartes, and every few pages another one by Barth. And Plato – lots of Plato. I never knew I ever read so much Plato, or liked it so well, or that Plato and Karl Barth had ever been so close together in my mind, growing up side by side like two trees in a garden.

I steal a sideways glance at the scribbled notes. Most of it I can't bear to read. It is always disappointing to discover what a pompous arse you are, how sure of yourself, how confident in your own abilities, how easily you pass judgment on good and bad, truth and error, wrong and right.

Opinion is a beggarly thing; I should have learned as much from Plato if I'd been paying attention. 

Is my 24-year-old self really the right person to be assuring you that a certain critique of St Augustine is "perfectly convincing", or that the climactic scene in Seneca's Oedipus is "poorly executed", or that Moltmann's small-print sections in Theology of Hope are "learned and acute", or that Clark Pinnock is too self-absorbed to be interesting,  or that Bernard Ramm's prose style is one of the most "shamefully incompetent" spectacles in modern theology?

At a few points I see glimmers of promise. Observations that are simpler, more objective and serene, a little less pretentious. Like the single-sentence summary of Augustus Strong's The Great Poets and Their Theology: "He reveres Shakespeare & loathes Goethe." Or the verdict on Hans Schwarz's Creation: "Lots of science, not much theology." Or the description of "the pleasant lack of nervousness and anxiety" in Anselm's writing. Or the observation that Plato's genius is encapsulated in a remark of Socrates to Euthyphro: "Come, then, let us examine what we are saying."

There are mysteries in this diary too, peculiar dimensions of myself that I can no longer access. One note begins with the apology: "In the midst of many more pressing matters, I had time only to read the first half." More pressing matters? Many? Here I was sitting around all day reading 163 books – recording them in an A4 diary – and still I imagined that somewhere in my life there were things that could be described as "pressing"? 

Or there is the mystery of retrospective vision, a thing that is always so enchanting about one's own old diaries. That the bits I thought were important turn out to be irrelevant, while the bits I thought were trivial turn out to be of huge significance. That's how I feel when I notice the January 2004 entry for Hans Urs von Balthasar's Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? I still remember where I was the day I read that book. I remember the impression it made on me, days later, the way it shook me, the way I kept turning it over in my mind for weeks, years afterwards. Yet in a diary where even the most pedantic monograph and the most boorish piece of Calvinist propaganda is honoured with its own meticulous description and review, Balthasar's Dare We Hope is noted – just the title – without a single word of comment.

The most arresting feature of this diary, however, is the way it documents an entire philosophy of reading. This philosophy of reading – let's call it the Reading Mirror – takes it for granted that the whole purpose of books is to reflect back to ourselves our own preferences, assumptions, and opinions. My 24-year-old self sums this up rather bluntly on 6 December 2002, noting – after reading Donald Bloesch's Theology of Word and Spirit – how satisfying it is "to find someone with whose views I feel I can almost entirely agree."

Isn't that where so much of our reading goes wrong? We turn to books, lots of books, looking always for the same thing: ourselves. And we end up finding just what we were looking for. The ego remains at the centre, absorbing other minds and worlds into itself.

There is a whole approach to education that uses books like this. Good books are the ones that share my prejudices and affirm my experiences; bad books are the ones that are strange to me, books full of alien prejudices and remote experiences, books that offend my sense of being at the centre. On these terms even the best books become unfruitful. The seed falls on stony ground; it springs up momentarily but withers, having no roots. 

But the seed that falls on good soil brings forth grain – some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

I have laid the diary back in the bottom drawer. I will leave it there with the other orphans – the papers, files, notebooks, scrawled addresses, unanswered letters, the detritus of a life. Perhaps one day, ten years from now, I will discover it again. Perhaps then it will surprise me all over again, once I have forgotten that it exists, once I have ceased to believe that such a person who read those books and wrote those things could ever have existed. That's the thing about old diaries. I close the drawer. The house is quiet as I go back to my chair and to my book.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Teaching the doctrine of the Trinity


In the coming semester I'll be teaching a subject on the doctrine of the Trinity, focusing on close readings of three formative Christian texts. The classes are on Thursday nights over twelve weeks (and as always, auditors are welcome to come along!). I'll be teaching each class with Matt Wilcoxen; we'll engage in discussion and debate together, instead of presenting monological lectures. I've pasted below the introduction and weekly schedule – I'd be interested to know if any other educators out there have approached the subject this way, or have used a similar kind of dialogical lecture form. Classes don't start for a couple of weeks yet, so all ideas and suggestions are welcome!

--
Introduction

In this subject, you are invited to explore the central mystery of the Christian faith: the mystery of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is the belief – shared by all the main historic Christian traditions – that within God there is a living threefold movement, and that this divine three-in-oneness is the secret of the world’s creation, redemption, and final restoration.

It was the experience of salvation in Christ that led early Christian thinkers towards a doctrine of the Trinity. From the earliest days, Christians were convinced that in Christ they had experienced God’s saving self-revelation. And if Christ reveals God – if, looking at Jesus, you find yourself looking at God – then Christ must somehow be said to share in God’s divinity. Otherwise, you wouldn’t really have met God in Christ, and God would remain unknown. The doctrine of the Trinity was formulated as a way of safeguarding these basic convictions about salvation and revelation.

In its briefest form, this doctrine can be summarised with the statement that God is “one being, three persons.” In the more elaborate language of the Nicene Creed, the doctrine of the Trinity centres on the affirmation that “Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, [is] eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.”

How exactly does this language about the Trinity relate to our ordinary Christian experience of salvation? How does it relate to the spiritual life? How does it relate to the way we read the Bible? And is this doctrine really just one theory among others? How can be sure that we really know anything about God at all?

These are some of the key questions that we’ll be exploring throughout the semester. We will be reading and studying three major Christian thinkers: the Greek-speaking theologian Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389/90); the North African bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430), and the twentieth-century Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). We will be focusing especially on these writers' patterns of biblical exegesis, and on the way they view theological reflection on the Trinity as a path of spiritual transformation. These are creative, challenging, highly imaginative Christian thinkers. At first it will take some patience and hard work to get familiar with them. But they will amply repay as much effort as you bring to them.

Our weekly classes will be led by two lecturers, Ben Myers and Matt Wilcoxen, who will engage in discussion, debate, and dialogue about each week’s reading. Make sure you’ve read the text before you come to class – underline, annotate, jot down one or two questions that arise for you from the reading – so that you can join in the discussion.

This is an exciting topic, and these are exciting Christian texts. We look forward to learning together with you over the coming semester!


Weekly Schedule

GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS: THE REVELATION OF THE TRIUNE GOD
1. The spirituality of theology (Oration 27)
2. The unknowable God (Oration 28)
3. The revelation of the Son (Oration 29)
4. The light of the Spirit (Oration 31)

AUGUSTINE: THE WAY INTO THE TRIUNE GOD
Text: Augustine, The Trinity
5. Jesus, the divine Saviour (selections of Books 1 and 4)
6. The life of the mind: A wounded image of the Trinity (Books 9-10)
7. The healing of the wounded image (Book 14)
8. Knowing the triune God from the inside (selections of Book 15)

KARL BARTH: THE OVERFLOW OF THE TRIUNE LIFE
Text: Barth, "The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country," CD IV/1 (study edition), §59.1
9. Jesus, the humble Lord (pp. 150-69)
10. Divinity and kenosis (pp. 169-86)
11. The humble God (pp. 186-98)
12. Naming God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (pp. 198-204)


Assessment

* Assessment 1: short research paper on Gregory's scriptural exegesis
* Assessment 2: short research paper on Augustine's images of the Trinity
* Assessment 3: theological essay drawing on the class texts, with essay questions on topics like spirituality, exegesis, gender, language, art, and preaching. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Dissident doodlings


by Kim Fabricius

The pope tweets – and then retires. You think that’s a coincidence?

The 2013 Super Bowl was the eschatological full Monty: two weeks of purgatorial tack, including Bible-bashing bullshit; the heavenly butted Beyoncé at halftime; two teams elegantly beating the hell out of each other; even a power blackout, surely God’s judgement (Katrina-lite) on the Big Easy’s hookers, gamblers, and gays.

Let’s get this, er, straight: God does not hate fags. God not only loves gays, he likes, enjoys gays, delights in their company (cf. James Alison). God does not hate fag-haters either, God loves homophobes too. Maybe (with Alisonian generosity, though it’s a stretch) God even likes them. It would be nice if they would return the favour.

Any reservations I had about gay marriage – ever since I gave it any thought, I have always supported the blessing gay unions – have finally dissipated after observing the way it has divided the Tories and undermined their chances of winning the next general election. I mean, that’s got to be providential, right?

An NRA national convention is not a pretty sight: a spectacle of mass mensicide.

Initially horrified to hear that there are American churches where you can bear firearms at worship, I now think, hey, at least there’s always a chance that someone will shoot the preacher.

Responding to an excerpt from an interview with N.T. Wright in which the British scholar speaks of the incredulity with which the developed world regards the religious right’s opposition to a national healthcare system, one blogger commented: “Yes, of course American conservatives want more sick and dead people. That’s it exactly.” He thought he was being ironic.

In the early 70s I settled in the UK as an expat. Today I’d be an asylum seeker. A recurring nightmare is that I am in a holding cell at Heathrow awaiting rendition.

Know your Bible, keep the commandments, exercise self-control, choose a righteous lifestyle (for sin is a matter of choice and you’re responsible), keep yourself pure (for the world is corrupt), grow up (don’t be a baby), suffer in silence, be a good citizen, fear hell, keep it simple. Recognise your kind of Christianity in these ten, er, propositions? Don’t let it worry you that a Pelagian could tick all the boxes.

A Pelagian is an Augustinian who has never grown up.

It figures that Marilynne Robinson is a Calvinist: her writing is irresistibly graceful.

I really like Anne Lamott, I do. I sense a soul-mate (getting wrecked and reading recklessly opened her mind). But now that I have read three of her many books – well, you should read it too.

Imagine having a “personal relationship with Jesus”. Exactly.

For some complementarians, it’s wasn’t Adam and Eve, it was Adam and Jeeves.

The Bible, of course, is a library, not a book. Still, you may read it from cover to cover – though the wisest theological and literary strategy is to start at the end and work backwards, for that’s the only way the Bible really makes sense. 

It embraces the intellectual, the somatic, and the improvisatory – the restlessly probing mind, the desiring body, the spirit in pilgrimage – and the full range of the affections – praise and joy, anguish and lament, acceptance and protest. That is why, for me, jazz is the epitome of (dreadful term, I know) Christian music.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course: the political and electoral systems of liberal democracies are a game, a game that’s fixed, a game of two haves.

The only good argument for Establishment I know is that Rowan Williams now sits in the House of Lords (as [the Red?] Baron Williams of Oystermouth) – admittedly beside the atrocious argument of George Carey.

If the living dead are zombies, then the dead living are …? Fundies, I guess (cf. Jaroslav Pelikan on the “dead faith of living people”). Call them pistiscides.

The question is not WWJD but WIJD.

On the kingdom of God belonging to children, after he had finished the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Now let’s play pretend …”

The good news is that grandchildren are the most wonderful creatures in the world. The bad news is that you’ve got to have children to get them.

Favourite word-play of all time: Obit anus, abit onus. – Schopenhauer, on the death of a woman to whom he had been paying disability allowance for 26 years after physically throwing her out of his apartment.

Speaking of Schopenhauer, I’ve just been re-perusing a collection of his works – for light relief after finishing Robert Martin’s biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Opening Day for the Mets this year is April 1. You couldn’t make it up. Mind, it’s also the day after Easter, and the day my wife had a quadruple bypass four years ago. Hope springs eternal!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A letter to Pope Benedict XVI


Your Holiness,

I hope you will forgive me the impertinence of writing to you – I who am not only young and a layperson but also one of those "separated brethren" of the protestant churches. The only claim I can make on your attention is that I have prayed for you sometimes, and so have come to feel that curious bond of affection that grows up between lives otherwise so widely separated but joined, as if under one roof, in prayer.

So you are stepping down, handing the job over to a younger man. You explain that you are tired and old, that you want to retire to the cloister and eke out your last days in lonely prayer. When your predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, noticed that he was no longer young, he turned even his age and illness, even his dying, into a visible sign of God's presence in frail flesh. But you've taken another road. The silence of the cloister, and beyond that the silence of the grave and the deeper silence of the living Word, have been calling to you, and you have answered that call. 

And who could blame you? You haven't exactly presided over the brightest hour of the church's history, have you? But none of us gets to choose our time. We are here, now, and we have to make the best of it, even if at times we seem to spend our lives paying off the debts of former generations, or suffering for their mistakes. Leading the church must feel sometimes like trying to keep a ship on course when someone else has been there before you putting holes in the hull. And then you get to the end of it all and wonder whether you did a decent job or whether you just created more holes for the next person to deal with.

But forgive me, Holy Father, I am forgetting myself. It is, after all, the church we're talking about (I will even use the Catholic capital for once: the Church), not just some troublesome institution. And the church has no leaders, only servants. Or rather it has one leader, always the same, he who loved us and washed us from our sins by his own blood. How easy to forget that the church today – with all its troubles, its sins, its sadness, its calamitous attempts to manage its PR – is the very same church that was planted in the testimony of apostles, watered by the blood of martyrs, nourished by the prayers of holy saints. How easy to forget that the church is not ours but God's, and that God leads and sustains the church by secret means of which no tongue can tell. You never forgot this, Holy Father, that is why you had the freedom to take this step, to lay aside your office and creep unburdened into the mystery of prayer.

I don't know what your legacy will be, Holy Father, and none of us can guess where the church's future lies. Except to say that the church's life today is hidden in the same place it was always hidden, in Christ who is in God.

Today, Holy Father, when the ash of last year's burned palm branches is smeared across my face, I will pray for you. I will pray for your successor – brave fellow, whoever he is! – and for all those poor courageous souls who hand their lives over into the service of God's church, living by trust when they cannot see the way, living by hope when their hearts are heavy, living by love because love is at the bottom of it all – for God is love.

Yours respectfully in Christ, &c.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A great difference

Last night I dreamt of Jacques Derrida. Not Derrida himself exactly, but his books, I dreamt of his books. I dreamt that he had written a new book and that someone had given me a copy as a gift. In the dream I unwrapped the paper, I held the book, and my joy was palpable. I took the new book to my shelf. It was a special shelf in my house, very precious to me because it contained in chronological order all the works of Jacques Derrida, my favourite author. 

I woke stricken, distraught, sick with confusion and remorse. Has the self no integrity? Is nothing true? Can one person become another in a dream? 

St Augustine was right: "The moment when I pass from wakefulness to sleep, or return again from sleep to wakefulness, marks a great difference in me."

Friday, 8 February 2013

The weird pedigree of biblical inspiration: Marcion, Origen, and the problem of the Old Testament

As far as I can tell it is Marcion who comes up with the first full-blown "Christian" theory of biblical inspiration. It is fundamental to Marcion's system that the Hebrew scriptures are divinely inspired. They are a perfect, utterly reliable revelation, word for word and letter for letter. But there's a sinister twist in this doctrine of inspiration. For these Hebrew scriptures are inspired not by a good God but by the Demiurge, the wicked god of the Jews. In Israel's scriptural writings this god has given us a completely reliable revelation of his (monstrous) deeds and character. Corresponding to Marcion's theory of inspiration is a commitment to literal interpretation. Read literally, the Hebrew scriptures plainly show the Jewish god to be a god of violence, wrath, jealousy, injustice, ineptitude, and petty legalism. 

So the function of divine inspiration in Marcion's system is clear: it's a way of forcing the problems of the Hebrew Bible out into the open. If every word is inspired then there's no way to escape the problematic texts. And when it comes to interpretation, there's no allegorical wiggle-room. In Marcion, biblical inspiration – with its correlate, literal interpretation – is an anchor for the all-important doctrine of the badness of the Jewish God (and, by implication, the badness of the Jewish people).

Writing a century later, Origen attacks the Marcionite system at its roots. He speaks of scripture as "One Testament" of Hebrew and Christian writings. He develops a science of textual criticism and produces the first Christian commentaries on entire books of Hebrew and Christian scripture, incorporating immense philological, archeological, and historical learning. Crucially, his exegesis aims to demonstrate that beneath the letter of scripture is a pervasive spiritual sense. Not just select passages but the whole of scripture invites christological interpretation. 

And this is where the theory of biblical inspiration comes into play. In authoring scripture, Origen argues, God has deliberately planted all sorts of interpretive obstacles: problems, difficulties, mistakes, morally objectionable stories, and so forth. These manifold obstacles lead us to press beneath the surface of the text and to search more deeply for its spiritual meaning. Such spiritual exegesis isn't just a scholarly technique. It requires ascetic purification, the spiritual transformation of the reader. So the problems in scripture – the same problems which Marcion takes as proof of divine wickedness – are planted there by God to lead us into the depths of spiritual life, just as a wise teacher might plant mistakes in a class discussion in order to lead the class, gently and unobtrusively, towards the truth. 

Origen's exegesis lays the foundations for all later Christian interpretation of scripture. His conclusions are as far removed from Marcion's as the east is from the west. But what's interesting is how much he takes over from Marcion. Like Marcion, Origen sees the scriptural text as divinely inspired. And like Marcion, he sees biblical inspiration not as a way of avoiding difficulties (à la some modern evangelicals!), but as a way of radicalising the problematic aspects of scripture.

But it is part of Origen's genius to assimilate the Marcionite theory of inspiration, to absorb it into his own system so completely and so systematically that the Marcionite reading of scripture seems not only exegetically superficial (in as much as Marcion sticks to the surface of the text) but also lacking in ascetic seriousness. When you recall that the whole appeal of the Marcionites was their commitment to asceticism, Origen's deployment of the theory of inspiration must be judged a tactical tour de force in the campaign against heresy.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Demented doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

Most hilarious Christmas holiday moment: Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, accoutred in camp Christmas vestments, declaiming with the authority of vast ecclesial experience that the Government’s plans for gay marriage are “undemocratic” and “Orwellian”. 

Sure, prayer in schools would prevent gun crime. Look at the UK. Here a daily act of worship in schools is a legal requirement. And gun crime is rare. Admittedly, so too are guns. Oh, and belief in God. However, with the apocalyptic advent of gay marriage, the imminent collapse of the family, and the inevitable ensuing moral chaos, we will no doubt be renaming our local elementary educational establishment “OK Corral Primary School”.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. However, if it also thinks like a duck, it’s probably Mike DHuckabee.

Bread and circuses: twofers now available at Mars Hill Communion services.

Barak Obama, 
Building barns of bad karma,
Will reap what he has sown – 
With the drone.

They’re Muslim, foreign, far away; and, of course, they constitute collateral rather than targeted damage (thank God for the principle of double effect, right?). Perish the thought, then, that there might be a connection (not, to be sure, of lament) between the gunned-down children of Sandy Hook and the drone-dispatched children of Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan: that is, between our domestic and international culture of killing kids. Same principality/power: Arma.

A Shiite once started a war against Saddam Hussein. You could take out an i and the e.

Breaking news: Michael Bird reports on an “emerging consensus” that “women can share in the didactic ministry of the church” (January 22). I think he means may share. Still, there’s progress on Dr. Johnson’s mal mot that “a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

I asked God, “What is the one thing needful?” She replied, “Multitasking.”

Suggested title for a short apologetic theology on the motherhood of God: Mère Christianity.

The greatest preacher and sermon I’ve ever heard? That’s easy: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme.

A lot of people, some big names included, are leaving Protestant churches and joining Rome. I understand the lure, I do. It’s like you’re on one of thousands of crappy little craft lost at sea when – “Ahoy!” – you spy this immense ship which promises stability, durability, and direction. Like an oil tanker.

How would I describe the way we, as a culture, treat people with dementia? Nazi-lite.

Someone says of someone with dementia, “If I get like that, shoot me.” And I think, “If I get like that, shoot me.”

I wish I could paint. I have two canvases in my mind’s eye. The first, The Crucified with Dementia at the moment of the “cry of non-recognition”. Then the prequel, set in Gethsemane at the moment of Mark 14:50: Christ with Dementia Forsaken by His Friends.

As Augustine (almost) said, love God and will what you do.

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the love of contingency comes a close second (cf. Father Zosima).

Some say Judas lost his soul when he betrayed Jesus, others when he took his own life. Actually, it was when he became Secretary of (US) to (UK) the Treasury of the Twelve.

Alas, I fear that even an anti-theodicist turns out to be a theodicist.

The distinction between natural evil (otherwise known as Shit Happens) and moral evil may (or may not) be moot when it comes to theodicies, but it is absolutely crucial when it comes to the despicable scapegoating of pundits of the religious right in the aftermath of disasters. 

It’s not only that our God is far too small, it’s that our faith is much too big, fat.

One should regularly go on retreat. Think of it as “downsizing”.

When I’ve got to make a snap decision in a family crisis, I couldn’t care less about WWJD, but I pray for enlightenment about WWAD. (Angie is my wife.)

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with an “Ah shit, I forgot my …”

Books, chapters, even paragraphs are beyond him. An aphorist is a person who spends a lifetime failing to write even one perfect sentence.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Audio sermon: Today this scripture is fulfilled..

On Sunday morning I preached at St Alban's Anglican Church on Luke 4:21, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". It's available in audio.

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