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Friday, January 30, 2009

Death of God

In the 1960s, following on from the proclamation of Nietzsche's mad man there was a movement that sought to proclaim the death of the traditional Christian God. It trumpeted the death of God but was more in line with a liberal restructuring of Christianity in some ways.

I had picked up an old paperback copy from the 60s and have just finished reading it. I enjoy reading theology from different perspectives but was pleasantly surprised to find some gems within this book.

There is a great deal of complex thinking. The authors engage with Kierkegaard at a deep level which lost me at times and also with Tillich and Bultmann. If nothing else it has spurred me on to try and understand more of the work of these other theologians.

In the next few posts I am going to drop in a few selected quotes and some thoughts which might be helpful in the current climate of trying to "do" church in the 21st century.

There is a fascinating quote from Nietzche where he suggests that Christianity had moved away significantly from Jesus life and example. He calls Christianity "the tremendous question mark" and goes on to say:

" the concept of 'church' it has pronounced holy precisely what the 'bringer of the glad tidings' felt to be beneath and behind himself - one would look in vain for a greater example of world-historical irony" (italics in the original).

Is the traditional model of church a "question mark" and has it moved so far from Jesus? What does this mean? Are we destined to be victims of cultural forces or is there an essence of faith and Christ-following that can be recaptured in our day?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some People Are Never Happy

Attached to this post is a picture of Bar Beach; just one of many fabulous beaches in Newcastle and the surrounding coastline. I live about 30 minutes from the center of Newcastle near Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal lake in Australia.

We have magnificent beaches, a beautiful lake, fishing, surfing, walking etc and yet...and yet I still hear a multitude of complaints in the taxi.

This week we hit over 40 degree temperatures on Saturday which is exceptionally hot in anyone's book especially an ex-pat Englishman like myself. Last summer didn't really happen and people complained about the lack of sunshine but now that we have a hot summer people complain about the heat. And people have the nerve to call English people "whinging poms"!

It appears that it's either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Myself, I look to adjust to whatever temperature comes my way and try and enjoy the day.

It got me thinking about the tendency of some sections of the Australian church to complain. We complain about Hillsong or Sydney Anglicans or the more progressive aspects of the Uniting Church. They're either too literal or not literal enough and all the while the rest of society gets on with their lives and increasingly sees the church as irrelevant and out dated.

The remedy, as I see it, is not to give up critiquing but to look for the positives in our brothers and sisters. I find it difficult to sleep in the hot, humid weather we are having so I get up and try and find some productive way to use my time rather than sweating and complaining. I find some of the preaching of Hillsong is not to my liking but I rejoice that a friend of mine who has been through divorce and depression is an active member of the church and has found a community that has supported and sustained him through the rocky parts of his recent journey.

On Australia Day 2009 I appeal to all of the readers of this blog to put away complaining and bickering and to seek to find the positives in our brothers and sisters. Critique robustly but don't put people down and use your words to hurt people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Continued

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as " to desire with expectation of obtainment and to expect with confidence."

I have been reflecting a great deal on what I perceive to be apathy amongst many church attenders in Australia. People attend church on Sunday. Many of them stand in rows, sing a few songs, listen to a Biblical talk/lecture/sermon of approximately 30 minutes duration, sing some more songs and then move off to the area set aside for tea, coffee and biscuits.

Without wishing to be too reductionistic and judgmental if this is what the Christian life is all about then no wonder pretty much all of the people from outside of church culture that I interact with don't want any of it.

What I am wondering is - is this all it is for many people? What is the experience for people from other countries? Do many people see the gospel as simply a "ticket to heaven"? Why do people go to church but live the rest of their lives mostly indistinguishable from their neighbours?

Have we lost a sense of hope that can transform people, communities and cultures?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free Emerging Church Books

Yep, Free Books on the Emerging Church. Tall Skinny Kiwi who is a prolific and thoughtful blogger is traveling and is offering to post books free to anywhere in the world.

It is worth adding his blog to google reader if you have it.

To find out the details of the free book offer check the blog post for details.

If you take him up on the offer please encourage him. He is a great blogger and this is a wonderful gesture to those of us pushing at the boundaries of faith and culture.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back from the Black

Last weekend I descended into a black hole of depression and anxiety. It has been building for a while which is why the blog has been lying dormant for a while.

I need to give up taxi driving as soon as I can. Driving nights is not conducive to lowering one's anxiety. I was going to concoct a story for the owner of the taxi but on Thursday I went and met with his wife and himself for a cuppa and shared honestly about my struggles. I am only working Saturday night this week and then we will review my shifts. I have asked him to look for a replacement driver for the Friday and Saturday night shifts.

I will drop down to 3 nights and am exploring opportunities to return to part-time pastoral ministry with a church. I am on my medication and am waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist to review the medication and reassess me. Before I enter into preaching and pastoral ministry I want to be sure that I have good support and boundaries.

It's a very trying time and my marriage is just about surviving. My wife has found a good local church so I plan to drop Saturday asap so we can go to church as a family as part of the process of putting some normality back into our lives.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, New Gathering

My good friend Benjamin Wheatley has taken the bull by the horns and begun a blog for the Newcastle Cohort. Ben and I met for coffee late last year and discussed the idea of a loose gathering of people to talk about faith, Jesus and church.

I am really excited about this development. There are some good thinkers and practitioners in this part of the world that often get overlooked because of the size of Sydney and Melbourne.

As I look to establish a house church and build on the work of the pub church this is a timely opportunity to wrestle with issues of faith and practice in the 21st century.

Please consider adding the blog to your reader or favourites list as we begin to explore what it means to follow Jesus in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.