Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I’m down in lymington, hants, at parents’ new house and near brother’s family. Cousin Ian’s wedding in dorset on Saturday.
Was at Carl and Gail’s church yesterday, Lymington Baptist. A very creative audiovisual presentation of the Christmas message of the incarnation. Apparently there are seventy ‘sextillion’ stars in the known universe (who said science couldn‘t be racy!). The point being made that God the creator must be pretty big. Now hold fire, atheists. I myself sometimes feel the connection between ‘awesome universe’ and ‘big God’ can be made a bit too easily and sound a tad trite. What followed was the point that at Christmas, the lord of the universe was humbled to a baby in a manger. Contemporary christian apologetic and communication has for some time treated such ‘radical paradox’ or ‘extreme dramatic irony’ as a one of its hottest playing cards, unique selling points. Another favourite is the concept of grace, that you begin with acceptance by God as a platform for joyful service and pursuit of holiness - reversing the widespread idea of ritual and discipline as a route to or condition for acceptance. No question that these counter-intuitive reversals and paradoxes are at the heart of Christianity’s attractiveness - what help make it a ‘big idea’. Perhaps their emphasis is a key way to break down prejudice and barriers?

I’m thinking about the nature of Cn witness, trying to grasp more of the big picture. I’m engaged in a constant process of integration, endeavouring to see how the message of the gospel intersects with vast and inevitable human processes, eg the reality that people get set in their thought patterns and views, as adults, and become increasingly closed to change, and are daily swept away in their thousands by the grim reaper. Cheery eh? The human heart gets wrapped up in material comfort, and as my minister uncle put it, it takes ‘hard times’ to recreate an openness to spiritual reality.
I’m reading Richard Holloway’s ‘doubts and loves’. he advocates a theology of praxis instead of a theology of positivism, by which he means it’s more important to follow the way of Jesus than to believe the right things about him. He’s inclined to regard much of what the bible says, including the resurrection, as metaphor. A problem here is that the gospel narratives themselves contain earthy, flesh and blood detail. And he is suspicious of doctrine about Jesus, wary of folk who insist on regarding him in a particular way, or as ‘Lord of all’. Behind this is a suspicion of totalising systems. Paul though - his imagination was clearly captured by the idea of Christ as all-encompassing, and it‘s difficult to see how you can be passionate about believing in and following Jesus if you limit him as holloway appears to do…

Sunday, 6 December 2009


What has been going through my head lately? Have been watching ‘the history of Christianity’ on bbc4. The final part will look at the future of the faith in western Europe, where it was acknowledged there is currently widespread indifference. ‘should God be worried?’ I’m interested in rob’s comments under previous post considering how the life of faith is best understood in process and action. I agree that truth is often seen most plainly when it is embodied and lived out.
I’m intrigued by how all sorts of things that engage the public imagination relate to what life is ultimately about. Take strictly come dancing. Why is it so popular? (I watched it last night with a friend for the first time - won’t be making a habit of it, but…) so what are the elements? Well it’s obviously beautiful and spectacular to watch - well, some of it. I’m looking for the synthesis here, what are the core human desires, motivations, and how do they fit in the big picture? (obviously the x factor mines a similar well). The celebrity factor. What is the draw of celebrity? I’m a celebrity get me out of here? What is the magnetic attraction? Why am I not so drawn to it? People you see in the public arena, you get to know them, my life is ordinary, this person has an extraordinary life, a larger than life persona, and so I want to follow the person, their journey..
The endeavour. There’s a pursuit of excellence, a competition, a striving to overcome hurdles, to be the best.. We enjoy witnessing the human effort to excel. The judges. These are the authorities, the experts.. What did they think? Their view is the one that matters. My friend commented on the fairy tale quality, the escape. Escapism - what’s that about? The desire to see a world of beauty and drama. These are just freewheeling thoughts, but I’m intrigued by how they relate to larger but perhaps dormant human aspirations - for heaven..?

I read an article in Christianity magazine October suggesting that ways of doing church there may not work here since the spiritual climates are so different. It suggested the US is in nt terms like Jerusalem at the time of revival, Britain more like sceptical Athens.

And finally, also been watching ‘life’ on the beeb. The beauty of a jellyfish, pulsating lace of infinite delicacy. Ethiopian wolf stalking a mountain rat, it’s low slung body a taut spring, ears pricked, a model of focus and precision in nature’s no safety net struggle to win and survive. Nature’s spectrum, elements that entrance and captivate, elements that disgust…