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Monday, May 28, 2007

Theology Blogs

Patrik Hagman of "God in a Shrinking Universe" has another site that comprehensively lists Theology blogs.

He has just reached the 100 mark and it is well worth checking out. Let me know some of your favourite sites and why.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An invitation to leave the comfort zone

Hopefully it won't take much to realise that I am being profoundly and beautifully impacted by "The Porpoise Diving Life".

Today, words fail me. Please, please read this link and comment. I will engage in posts with the comments but I have nothing further to add except to say that I feel the presence of Jesus here with me in a tangible way calling to me to follow him again into uncharted waters.

"Are you threatening me?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The space after words

As you know, I work with men with mental illnesses. Last week one of the guys phoned me because he'd been thinking back upon his life and he felt that at the age of 48 he'd seen just too much disappointment and heartache to see any hope. He had also been hurt by a few people and was dwelling on these hurts and was been sucked into depression.

The reason he phoned me is because he trusts me. We know that we are becoming more Christlike when people can trust us to listen and be there in their time of need. As I was reflecting upon this I read the first Chapter of "The Porpoise Diving Life".

I found this passage to be helpful:

"Christians and Christianity do not have all the answers that can be expressed in words. There are some things that simply defy explanation. One of the most powerful things a Christian can say to a person overwhelmed with the inexplicable in life is absolutely nothing. To sit with the wounded in the midst of their mourning is a sacred privilege. We need to learn to shut up. When confronted with situations that words cannot describe, we need to do just that; stay speechless. There is a depth and dimension of beauty that God’s Spirit is freed to display when we confess, “I don’t have a clue.”

The authenticity of the Christian witness to one another, the world and our God is compromised by the infernal propensity to have all the answers or know where to find them. It’s time to embrace humility. We must move beyond the superficial, surface level exhortations we so readily distribute to one another and a wounded world."

"To sit with the wounded in the midst of their mourning is a sacred privilege" - it is indeed.

Too often Christians reach for their concordance in order to pull a salient quote to move the wounded person on through their pain when most often we need to simply "be with". I could have brought out "All things work for good for those who are in Christ Jesus". This man is a disenchanted Christian who comes to church with me now and he has heard that verse many times but the power of Christ working through me was in my presence.

To have the mind of Christ is not to have all the answers. To have the mind of Christ is to recognise when to speak and when not to; it is to love those who feel unloved; it is to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.

People experience all manner of grief as they journey through life. Those who have accepted the call to follow Jesus may find themselves called to sit with those who need someone to simply "be".

Uncertain of Purpose? Be a Porpoise

For those of you who, like me, were left unsatisfied by "The Purpose Driven Life" will be interested in an online book and website that doesn't stop at easy answers.

The "Porpoise Diving Life" is a wonderful exploration of the grey areas of faith and is a good resource for those of us who don't find things all neat and tidy being a follower of Jesus, much like the disciples.

Bill Dahl, the author, said, in an interview, "What I write has, believe me, absolutely nothing to do with some sort of a gimmicky reaction to Warren’s book and/or his writings or theology. It is solely based upon what God’s Spirit placed upon my heart and wouldn’t let up until I acted.

Jesus never promised us that our existence in this world and journey of faith with Him would be without pain, uncertainty, the unexpected, the incomprehensible and hardship. Perhaps there’s another dimension of truth to the Gospel message that people are yearning to hear that is outside the confines of a well-ordered, trouble-free, formula-based, prosperity laden, purpose-driven life."

If you are uncertain of your purpose then explore what it means to live free as a porpoise for Christ.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May Synchroblog - Film

See what the other synchrobloggers have to say on Christianity and film:

Adam Gonnerman pokes at
The Spider's Pardon
David Fisher thinks that
Jesus Loves Sci-Fi
John Morehead considers
Christians and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
Marieke Schwartz lights it up with
Counter-hegemony: Jesus loves Borat
Mike Bursell muses about
Christianity at the Movies
Jenelle D'Alessandro tells us
Why Bjork Will Never Act Again
Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates
Theology and Film (as art)
Tim Abbott tells us to
Bring your own meaning...?
Sonja Andrews visits
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:Christ in Spaghetti Westerns
Steve Hollinghurst takes a stab at
The Gospel according to Buffy
Les Chatwin insists
We Don't Need Another Hero
Lance Cummings says
The Wooden Wheel keeps Turning
John Smulo weaves a tale about
Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
Josh Rivera spells well with
Christian Witchcraft
Phil Wyman throws out the
Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back
Sally Coleman rushes up with
Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
Kim Paffenroth ponders
Nihilism lite

And a couple of late entry honorary synchrobloggers:
Crystal writes on
Movie recommendations for the Pope
Elizaphanian writes on
Apologia pro video sua

We don't need another hero

I started working on this post ready for the May synchroblog. It was all typed up ready to go when I had trouble putting the links in for the other bloggers. In the process of trying to fix this I somehow moved to another page and when I returned my blog was gone!! I was so fed up that I left it and the busyness of life jumped in so here I am again, a couple of days late with "We don't need another hero" take 2.

I don't like to draw conclusions too easily but I did get a feeling that, because my post was taking a slightly different approach to many of the others, there was some divine intervention in removing my post before I'd thought it through some more.

I have to be upfront; I do not consider myself to be an "out there", postmodern, emerging thinker. don't start thinking that I am a modernist, reformed, conservative blogger either. In fact, I resist labels in Christendom as much as I do in the mental health field. What has this to do with the blog? Well, not much except to try and help readers to resist slotting me too easily into a box before considering my point of view.

What I am about to say is not reflecting upon any of my fellow synchrobloggers but I get pretty cheesed off with Christians searching for Jesus under every cultural rock and looking for any "star" who shows the slightest interest in Christianity as a spokesperson for the Church. Bono is a case in point; seems like a nice bloke; does some good work for campaigning against debt; has good days and bad days; when he's spiritual sectors of the church lift him onto a pedestal and when he says the "wrong" thing or wears devil horns suddenly the church don't want to be near him. Thankfully he wrote "Yahweh" and was redeemed from the firey pit once again.

Now this topic got me thinking about how Christians seek symbols and meaning in movies. Each time a good guy/bad guy film appears (which is many films) some Christians go ahunting for the Christ figure and the triumph over evil. My thesis for this post is that "we don't need another hero" because we already have one in Jesus Christ himself who died once for all. If I am misunderstanding cultural critiques then please someone help me to understand.

I appreciate movies, especially those that seek to explore the human psyche but sometimes we need to accept that a director is seeking to portray a story and make it as popular as possible. The director most likely will not be laying subtle threads of Judaeo/Christian imagery through the plotlines.

I fear that I am making as little sense as my first attempt at this post but now that Blogger has an autosave function I feel some divine approval in this modified attempt.

One of the negative aspects of seeking for spiritual meaning in movies is that as well as the good the bad (evil) is often found. This is what causes Christians to miss some of the wonderful world of horror and sci-fi because they are scared that somehow by watching such films they are opening themselves to demonic oppression. I get the same arguments from some people who discover how little Christian music is in my vast collection of records and cds.

Why can't a horror movie simply be a filmwriter's journey to explore darker subject matter? Why do we have to fear the darker side of media? I am a pentecostal of sorts by persuasion and am not knocking the theology of angels and demons but I am suggesting that it is problematic if it constricts our lives through superstitious fear.

Have I made any sense? If I have failed to hold together a coherent argument I will finish by reiterating my central premise - we don't need another hero. We don't need a type of hero or any kind of hero because Jesus has done all that needs to be done. Now please pass me the popcorn and let me just enjoy the movie.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Holy Spirit

As I mentioned in the previous post I am reading a book on Greek Orthodox Theology by Vladmir Lossky. I am roughly at the halfway mark and it has been a very challenging journey but tonight I had a wonderful moment of joy. Reading a tough theological book is much like mining for gold; there is a lot of hard work but the reward comes in finding the nugget.

One of the things that has struck me in reading this book is how much Greek Orthodoz theology can help breathe life into Pentecostal theology. Lossky is briefly discussing the work of Anselm of Canterbury and the Protestant focus on the juridical nature of Jesus' death on the cross. He says:

"If the thought of Anselm could stop at the redeeming work of Christ, isolating it from the rest of Christian teaching, it was precisely because in his time the West had already lost the true idea of the Person of the Holy Spirit, relegating Him to a secondary position by making Him into a kind of lieutenant or deputy of the Son."

Amen! How much of evangelical theology is a matter of "relegating (the Holy Spirit) to a secondary position by making Him into a kind of lieutenant or deputy of the Son"? I want to also suggest that Pentecostal theology can seek to wedge the Holy Spirit into a dominant feel-good role alongside or above the Son.

Of course, in making these comments I have left plenty of room for discussion but it has fired up my enthusiasm for Lossky and for exploring more of the wonders of Greek Orthodox theology. As I pursue further questions on the email list I will post my reflections.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wherefore Art Thou?

I have been slack in posting. I have Google Reader and keep myself appraised of a number of wonderful blogs, most of which are in the links section. I found that, with reading other blogs and preparing for sermons plus my own theological study for hobby purposes I have done lots of thinking but haven't submitted any of it to the world that is the blogosphere.

I thought I might bring the blogging world up to date with my reading and reflecting. There is a great deal that is in process and sometimes I feel too self-conscious to share my theological musings.

I have just finished "Attachments" by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy. This is not a theological book. It is a wonderful book broadly discussing Attachment Theory from a Christian perespective. I have read reasonably widely on this subject and this was the first book written from a clear Christian worldview. It is clear, concise and very practical. For counsellors it is a must and for those who are married or raising children and wish to understand some of the mechanics of love and relationships and how to build strong, secure individuals then this is an ideal book. The Christian approach only really comes into play in the second part of the book and is sensitive enough to provide a biblical perspective without being too "churchy". I have read too many books that see the Christian life through Rose Coloured Glasses; this is not one of those books.

I must commend Steve Hayes' blog "Notes from underground". Steve is an Orthodox Deacon in South Africa. A friend of mine recently completed 2 Masters level subjects at St. Andrews Greek Orthodox College in Sydney. My friend is, generally speaking, pentecostal as am I so it was reasonably surprising for me to find him studying here.

What was more interesting is that, independently of my friend's journey, I had been in touch with Steve via email to begin exploring Orthodox Theology. As a result of my discussions with my friend I have begun reading "In the Image and Likeness of God" by Vladimir Lossky. It is a difficult but very insightful book which contains 12 essays discussing some fundamental questions of Orthodox Theology. I am using the book as a foundation for beginning discussions with Steve to help me learn more about a branch of Christianity that I have been ignorant of for so long.

Interestingly I have found parallels in Orthodox theology with Pentecostal theology. I will share these insights as I work through the text and my journey. My appreciation of orthodoxy will be shallow and limited but I want to learn more from the rich mystical traditions and teaching of some of the Fathers.

I am about to commence preaching through Galatians and this has reawakened my passion for grace teaching. As part of my study I have been glancing through "Grace in Galatia" by Ben Witherington III. It is a wonderfully erudite but readable commentary. The preparation has also reacquainted me with Martin Luther.

One of the difficulties I find is to decide what to read and which topic of interest to focus on at any given time. Of course, I haven't mentioned work and my wonderful wife and 3 fantastic boys and Aussie Rules and Soccer training with the kids and church on.