Those who engage in debates on a regular basis know that the argument itself can easily shape the points involved. This is another way of saying that some debates should be avoided entirely since merely getting involved in them can be the road to ruin. There are a number of Christian scholars (particularly among the Orthodox) who think that the classical debates between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages had just such disastrous results for Christian thinking.
Now when engaging in religious debates it is all too easy to agree to things that might make for later problems. It is possible, for example, to agree to a comparison of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament and the Book of the Quran. After all, Muslims have a holy book – Christians have a holy book. Why should we not debate whose holy book is better?
It is even possible to agree with the Muslim contention that Christians (and Jews) are “People of the Book.” Of course Muslims meant that Christians and Jews were people of an inferiorbook, but were somehow better than pagans. Again, it is possible, nevertheless, to let the matter ride and agree that Christians are “People of the Book.”
And it is also possible to give wide latitude to the Muslim claim that the most essential matter with regard to God is “Islam,” that is “submission.” After all, if God is the Lord of all creation, then how is submitting to Him, recognizing and accepting that He is God, not the most important thing?
But each of these proposals had disastrous results in the history of Christianity and may very well be the source of a number of modern distortions within the Christian faith.
Like so many, we've been praying about the state of the world, struggling to know what to do. In Revelation 10, John sees and hears Gods response to the violence so many were caught up in - to be part of the church in that time meant seeing your mates crucified on the roadside and running for your life.
We wrote a song based on this revelation to help us to pray and caught this snapshot of our worship at Ivy Didsbury. Anthony Delaney (Ivy Manchester) prays and helps contextualise the moment. We value being real about what's happening in the world and no matter how bad it gets, we know God is good, his heart is for the broken and he will come and make a difference. So we keep singing and we keep praying.
Here's a recording of the song: https://soundcloud.com/ivychurch/revelation-10?in=ivychurch/sets/ivy-church-worship
Here's a chart/lyric sheet: Download Revelation-10
Grace Fox tells this story in her book “Timeouts for Moms”
(pages 177 – 179)
Like Abraham, we want to reach the end goal. We want to see the promises given to us from God come into fruition. We feel as though if we go faster, if we run harder, we will reach that goal more quickly. Then we will have achieved something, we will have proven our worth, we will have completed God’s plan. Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This verse speaks so clearly of persevering, pressing on, keeping focused on Jesus, but sometimes, we can get caught up in running the race, we can get stuck with our eyes on the goal, and life is racing past us as we run. When we live like this, run faster like this, we often forget that God is right beside us, he wants to journey with us on the pathway, and wants us to live out the plan, not just get to the goal. This is both a literal practice and a spiritual practice. We all lead busy lives, and we have requirements on us, tasks that cannot go without being completed on a daily basis. Our jobs need to be done, our families need to eat, our homes need to be taken care of. But in the midst of these tasks, expectations…. where is our focus? Where do we place our value? Is our focus on the end product? Do we wrap up our value, our worth in what we accomplish, what we produce? Or do we allow ourselves to walk slowly, enjoying each moment on the pathway, walking along side Jesus, allowing our worth to rest in Him, to be accepted as we are without the need to prove ourselves. Still accomplishing the things we need to, but now with a focus on enjoying and being thankful for each step.
When we walk slowly in the path of life, we:
There are several biblical examples of walking slowly with the Lord, and we will look at a few of them today.
George Grant (1918-1988) is considered by many to be one of the most significant Canadian public intellectuals in the latter half of the 20th century---Grant was also a High Tory of the highest calibre. Grant was a prolific writer and many have commented upon his wide ranging renaissance breadth. There has, of yet, been no essays on Grant and Amnesty International and Grant and Edward Said.
Amnesty International published The First Torturer’s Trial in 1975. Grant did a review of the book in the Globe and Mail (June 14 1977).
The focus and reason for the publication of The First Torturer’s Trial was the trial in Greece in 1975 of 32 Greek police officers and military men who had tortured opponents in the junta from 1967-1974. The junta finally collapsed because of the courageous work of Archbishop Makarios (1913-1977) in Cyprus who had been elected as president in 1959, 1968 and 1973. Grant did a sustained commentary on the report, and, in many ways, Grant argued torture was the crudest form of the will to power of ideologues.
There are those on the political right that argue that it is the left that uses torture to inflict their will and way, and the left has argued that the right often uses torture to silence opposition. There can be no doubt that both totalitarian and authoritarian states of the left and right often use their wills to end meaningful civic and civil dialogue. Grant’s meditation on The First Torturer’s Trial brings this obstinate fact to the fore again and again.
The five poems of Lamentations are some of the most graphic and evocative passages in the Old Testament, which seem to raise more questions than they answer. Who wrote it? When? Why? Even these are disputed, although it is commonly agreed that the event described is the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586BCE.1 Beyond these are deeper questions: How can such suffering be tolerated? How can a just God allow it? These are the real issues at stake in a book that is not only about the fall of a city, but about the privileges and consequences of a covenantal relationship with YHWH God.
In his commentary, Provan asserts, "Perhaps the most immediately noticeable feature of the poems in the book of Lamentations ... is their alphabetic nature."2 However, surely the most immediately noticeable feature is the pain.3 Written as laments,4 they are filled with suffering of every kind: grief, despair, abandonment, guilt, desolation, anger. The descriptions of torment and starvation are horrifyingly vivid, and the need to explain what has happened leaps off the page. Nevertheless,
Provan is correct in the sense that the first step towards understanding these laments is to examine their acrostic composition.
TO CONTINUE READING, CLICK HERE: Download Hope Makes a Difference
1. For example, see Delbert R. Hillers, Lamentations: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary (New Haven: First Yale University Press, 2009), 9-10; or David M. Carr, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible (Chichester: Blackwell Publishing, 2010), 171. One notable exception is Iain Provan, who insists that insufficient information exists to form any conclusion. Iain Provan, The New Century Bible Commentary: Lamentations (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 11-15.
2. Provan, Lamentations, 4.
3. Provan's assertion specifically refers to readers of the Hebrew text, but the same point stands.
4. Tremper Longman III and Raymond B Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nottingham:
Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 345.
The question of how to relate to society around us has been an enduring challenge for the Church; Docetism and exclusivism have been common postures. It is difficult it seems to relate to the world as God did in loving the world so much that he intervened with sacrificial love. Of course as human beings we are limited in our creaturely capacity to establish the absolute truth of life around us because we are ourselves a part of that very reality, its environment, culture, language, and dominant thought forms that inform our actions. Especially impressionable are our earliest, years and the mental constructions (schemata) learned in our early family life and in our community of origin. It is a mistake to think that as an adult we can objectively, quickly, transcend the truth of our life and its social formation influenced by the powers that be in our lives simply from a literal read of scripture. We read the scriptures through lens of our subjectivities. With contemplative perception and sensitivity to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we humbly progress and develop insight into our schematic life of developmental years and understand the biases, twists, and turns of our own cosmology to the extent that we can. One challenge is that of understanding the truth of Justice, of its “worldliness” and of its eternal goodness. In our world of change and generational disconnects, each generation again will need to reflect on accepted public truths, internalize and take ownership of its own worldview; to be world affirming and yet not conformed to this world, specifically in terms of doing justice.
Reciprocity and suffering
Probably most of us learned as children, and children learn what they live, that bad behaviour is reciprocated with punishment, and if you are “good,” you might get rewarded…”one good deed deserves another,” It is said. Themes of social (social exchange theory)l and juridical reciprocity play out through life in our culture and in the forms institutional justice has taken. Justice as reciprocity is virtually wired into our genes. “That’s just the way it is”, I was told when young, “don’t ask so many questions.” Prisoners will easily confess as truism, “You do the crime, you do the time.” It has become to be perceived as a universal law, as gospel truth. The world universally manifests a dominant belief in justice as reciprocity and that this reciprocity code is God’s design for justice in this life. Modern actuarial, consumerist, models of life, see public justice as reciprocity primarily through primitive levels of moral development as well as reciprocity in mathematical terms of simply “what’s in it for me In terms of risk.”
Increasingly, my experience in life, with a close eye on God’s revelation, gave the lie to the assumption that this is a just world created by God to be governed by the code of reciprocity. Bad things do happen to good people, and often the evil and powerful flourish in this world.
THE OLD TESTAMENT IS ABOUT YOU
(Series on www.vladikasblog.com)
by Archbishop Lazar
The Story of Jonah:
Dare we hate those whom God loves?
The story of Jonah presents a quandary. The history of Nineveh and the Assyrians is well known and documented. The Assyrians left their own records and the nations around them had much to say of them. They were hated by all and proud of it.
Nineveh, however, never accepted the God of Israel and certainly never repented "in sackcloth and ashes." So what is the story of Jonah about?
This story unfolds at a time when Judah and Israel had become particularist. They were turned in on themselves and not even attempting to engage other nations with the worship of the true and living God. Indeed, the population of the two kingdoms had not been fully converted and they were much in need of repentance.
As the story opens, God has commanded Jonah the son of Amittai to go up to the great city of Nineveh and preach repentance to them. Remember that Nineveh was the capital of the savage and brutal Assyrian kingdom. Jonah does not want to go. Instead, he boards a ship sailing to Tarshish (Spain). In the ancient world, Tarshish, at the far end of the Mediterranean Sea, was at "the other end of the earth." Was Jonah afraid, or just filled with hatred of the Assyrians? Perhaps both.
We all know the story. Jonah is cast overboard and swallowed by a "great fish." He is carried back to Palestine and regurgitated by the fish on the third day. Thereupon, he yields and goes up to Nineveh. He suffers several things largely because of his attitude. It appears to us that Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent, but rather wanted them to be punished for their beastly brutality. Nevertheless, the city does repent.
We said before, we know that the Assyrians never accepted the God of Israel, and never showed any signs of repentance. So what was the story about? Just this: God commanded Jonah to go to the most hated people on the face of the earth and tell them that God loves them, and will receive them with an open heart if they will but turn to Him.
Is this not a prophecy about the Christ, the Messiah? Is this not also a "sign of the prophet Jonah," along with his third day "resurrection" from the great fish? Does not Christ send his disciples to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel, baptising them in the name of the Godhead?
What about us? What does this story have to say to each of us? Simply this: we are prone to want to see our enemies suffer and be punished. God, on the other hand, "desires not the death of sinners, but that they should turn from their sins and live." Ultimately, the teaching is simple. The person that we hate is someone that our Master loves and shed His blood for.
Whoever has ears, let him hear.
A screed is a lengthy bit of writing that most readers generally find tedious. And tendentious. But today this has become a common genre among evangelicals of a certain tribe who are keen to shore up Christian support for the state of Israel at all costs. John Hagee is joining voices with Glenn Beck, and a host of evangelical bloggers who might benefit from a graduate-level course in theology or a refresher on the current political scene has joined in.
But today they are raising a new alarm: Evangelicalism’s historic support for Israel is slipping. This is such a concern that they’ve seen fit to name names and condemn institutions that apparently are contributing to this slippage. The well-known Willow Creek Community Church is on their list. But so are World Vision, Youth With a Mission (YWAM), the Mennonite Central Committee, the Telos Group in Washington, DC, Sojourners and Relevant magazines, Eastern University (Philadelphia), and my own Wheaton College (Chicago). And that’s just the beginning. Popular conferences such as Catalyst and Q are also indicted, not to mention Christian groups like Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.
Anyone who simply raises troubling questions about Israel’s 47-year military occupation of millions of Palestinians (including many Palestinian Christians) is suddenly labeled “anti-Israel” or in some cases “anti-Semitic.” And their institutions are condemned in a convenient gesture of collective incrimination. Consider the case of Tom Getman of Washington, DC, an evangelical who was a legislative aide to the late Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR). Getman has worked tirelessly for the cause of justice for Israel/Palestine for decades. But you can’t be the country director of World Vision in Israel/Palestine, see what the Israeli occupation is really doing, and not ask tough questions.
So what do we know?
First, it is clear that a robust community of evangelicals is firmly and inflexibly in support of the state of Israel. This is easy to demonstrate simply through polling in the last 12 years. In 2006 the Pew Forum found that 70 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the statement, “Israel was given by God to the Jews.” In 2013 that same question yielded 82 percent agreement. In 2005 the forum asked, “Has Israel fulfilled Biblical Prophecy?” Sixty-three percent said yes. In July thousands of evangelicals gathered in Washington, DC for the annual summit of Christians United For Israel (CUFI). Speakers include pastors, senators, and yes, Binyamin Netanyahu. In the words of one of my students now home for the summer: “I struggle to discuss theology with my family members who grew up and still reside in a very conservative town. I have tried to discuss Israel-Palestine with them but it’s like talking to a brick wall.”
I hear dozens of variations of those sentences from people all over the U.S.
Originally published in the UFV Cascade -- by Christopher DeMarcus (The Cascade)
Dart’s book Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism was published on the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, a moment in time that also marked a distinct change in Canadian and American relations: the 1962 election in Canada was highly influenced by the Kennedy administration, and the end result was further assimilation of Canada into the American empire.
Q: Why have you done a book about the red tory tradition?
RD: In one sense there is a counter to cultural amnesia in my work. I’m putting the historical pieces of the drama back together again, replaying the play. I was contacted by a press in Quebec and asked to cobble together a variety of essays that tell the red tory tale.
Q: In the manifesto section of the book you lay out an ideal political ideology for the problems we face in modernity. Why don’t more people embrace red toryism as a political view?
RD: I tried to condense the ideas in the manifesto because I’m often asked, “can you compress what this tradition is all about?” In doing a manifesto I’m thinning out a very complex tradition by giving people a teaser, an entranceway in.
The dominance of the blue tories and the cultural amnesia of the past has resulted in the red tory tradition being scattered like a broken Ming vase. Parties pick up elements of it; the Greens have the ecological and environmental elements.
If you read high English romantics like Wordsworth, Coleridge, or Southey, they were at the forefront of ecology and they were all high tories. As poet laureates of England, they had a great impact on Canadian thought. But when people study those poets they often only study their literary side, not the political.
In recent months, I have been receiving more and more inquiries from friends expressing interest in joining the Orthodox Church. One factor drawing them is increased exposure to the way Orthodox theology represents God as more compassionate and restorative than they had previously understood. So too, they find the Orthodox account of the Cross to be very healing, especially seeing how the God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself through self-giving love. Further, they've grown interested in the openness of some of the early church fathers to alternative interpretations of divine judgment such that eternal conscious torment is not a required dogma. Some find the combination of mysterious and tactile worship aesthetically alluring. The cool beards also contribute. And of course, when a credible witness seems to be flourishing in that context, post-evangelicals think of Orthodoxy as a potential option. Hence the interest among those who've watched my journey. I'm glad for this.
So if you're thinking of joining the Orthodox Church, here are some suggestions that others gave me which may help you avoid wasted time, frustration or disappointment. These are gleaned from hierarchs, priests, teachers and lay people who've guided others along. There's a healthy order that benefited me greatly.
That's right. We're not in a rush to sign up members (especially from other churches) or join the church growth movement. There is no rush. There is no pressure. If you're meant to become part of the Orthodox Church, God will draw you along. It's better to let God ripen you for the move until you feel you'll 'go to seed' if you wait any longer. But many stages precede that decision.
If you've visited an Orthodox service, that's excellent. But it's more important initially to befriend an Orthodox priest who is willing to walk you through the endless 'what about this?' questions that you certainly should have. This relationship will be vital because by the time you're chrismated, you'll want to love and trust this person as your spiritual father and shepherd. If your priest is hospitable to you, patient with you and can provide answers to your questions that satisfy, then you're on your way. From his point of view, this may be the beginning of your catechism ... not in some stiff kind of discipleship course, but over coffee chats and prayer retreats and through whatever reading he recommends.
This period of investigation is not the time to set aside your struggles with elements of Orthodoxy you resist.
Definition: MASHUP (n.) -- a musical track comprising the vocals of one recording placed over the instrumental backing of another.
I love mashups. The definition above tells you what they are, but doesn't tell you what they do, which is to say, how they function. And how they function is often the funnest and most clever part. When a melody is very familiar, we will come to associate a message with the melody itself. If, then, someone does a mashup with lyrics from a song that carries a very different message, the incongruity can be very striking. The combination then acts ironically or satirically to provoke thought, to drive home an inspiring message or even provide prophetic-social commentary. When you add video to the mix, the effect is amplified even further.
Allow me to give you two examples that are not only ingenious but also quite moving. After these examples, I want to introduce you to the oldest known mashup in history (thanks to Dr. Matt Lynch for directing me to it). But please walk with me through the two modern samples first, because each carries its own forceful point.
Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun
Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see.
Tears came as I saw that prodigal, stooped in shame, returning home to a father -- God -- to receive grace rather than condemnation, hospitality rather than punishment. Where there was ruin, there was restoration. I knew the song and thought I knew about grace, but amplified by the original melody, the gospel truly felt ... AMAZING! This is the power of great mashup. And that particular arrangement has been a powerful combination in venues that increase the effect even more. For example, I read about the tragic death of a disreputable biker whose friends played this version at his funeral. Imagine a congregation of gnarly hog-riders in leather blubbering along without shame? Actually, I've seen it ... and it was a rare beauty!
If you'd like to pause here and listen to that arrangement, let me introduce you to 'The Blind Boys of Alabama,' who really nail it.
When I was first introduced to the idea of a liminal experience it was in the reading of a book by Richard Rohr. Admittedly, I had to look the word up in the dictionary, but truth be told, I do that a lot anyway.
The word liminal means a threshold and liminal experience means an experience that takes you to that threshold.
Having a liminal experience is to find your breaking point.
As of recently, my personal encounter with this would be doing the Ironman (an iron distance triathlon) in 2013. Between working full-time, traveling, having three kids, adopting our fourth child – a baby boy – and my wife working full time, it was a little bit crazy and at times pushed me and my family to the threshold. Said another way: we felt like we were going to fall apart at the seams; we found our breaking point.
In some church circles you hear the term “break through” a lot. More often than not, I think the cultural definition of this is: a deeper or higher level of personal relationship with God. It’s a longing to have God break through your circumstances and make changes. He is completely capable of this and the pursuit of this is worthy, for sure.
Because words set things in motion and have premium value in God’s economy, it’s important that when we are using the term “break through” we are grounded in the biblical prophetic tradition and in way of Jesus. Our definition and understanding often shape our expression, so “remembering” – getting back to the basics – is a vital component to discipleship and orthodoxy.
Eleven years ago, in response to the second Iraq war, my friend Brad Jersak created T-shirts with the logo pictured to the left. I bought one immediately and wore it proudly wherever I went. One time it even got me into a bit of trouble when I (stupidly) wore it while getting onto a plane. Lesson learned.
Once it began to show some wear, it became my workout shirt, my running shirt, my “under my hockey gear” shirt and finally my paint shirt this summer when I transformed the trim on our house from green to white.
Last night while transferring my clothes to a new armoire we inherited from my brother-in-law (we inherited a dog from him around this time last year, so who knows what next October will bring), I concluded it was finally time to retire the shirt for good. Too worn, too hole-y, and too covered with paint.
I have a hard time letting go of old clothes at the best of times, but this shirt is particularly difficult to part with. In fact, as I write this, I realize it’s still sitting downstairs in the garbage, and I’m more than a little tempted to pull it back out.
It seems a particularly inopportune time to throw it out, seeing as we’re back at it again in Iraq (and Syria), but perhaps this ode to an old shirt will prompt a few more people to ask the question it poses.
READ MORE FROM KEVIN MILLER at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hellbound/