Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cheers, Big Ears!

Picture the scene:

Me and my wife are waiting in line in M&S to purchase a couple of essentials. Hannah is a teacher, and has had a few M&S gift certificates, so we were using them to pay for the stuff - free food stuff is always welcome here! Anyway, as she is handing over the gift certificates/card, she mentions that it is one of the perks of being a teacher, to which the woman behind us "just had to say" (apparently) that the 6 weeks of holiday are also a perk, surely.

Now, this neither of us can argue with. It's a slur that pretty much every teacher has had to put up with and smile graciously about since, well, since forever I imagine! However, the woman in question proceeds to snort out that, 'in fact, there are about 13 weeks' holiday. Paid. *tut*'. Hannah, being Hannah, hates confrontation, so she said nothing. Until we got into the car at which point she made her frustration known. "Why do some people feel that they can be so rude?" she justifiably asked. Indeed, why do they? What is it about certain people that makes them feel they "just HAVE to say something". They conveniently leave out the fact that most teachers work 12-13 hours per day, and that during the shorter holidays, they are working most of the time. I also wonder whether or not this woman's children go to school. Or in fact, did she? I am sure her (hypothetical) children would be worse off if there were no teachers.

We live in such a judgmental society. In fact, here I am judging this woman based on observing her actions for less than 5 minutes. It is bizarre. We are generally encouraged to do so by the media too. I believe that the contestants for Big Brother were booed before they even entered the house this year... What an odd society we are. Internet message boards, and blogs such as this, are rife with people saying the most disturbing things to each other, over nothing at all!

As a Christian, I am told by its founder to "not judge others". It is a practice we could all do with a bit more. I hope that we can be more gracious, and thankful to those we meet.

Therefore, allow me to offer you this challenge. For each person that you come into contact with, try and find something encouraging to say to them. Resist the temptation to lower their status by denigrating something about their existence.

"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it's the only answer."
Dorothy Day.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Following Jesus

I often think about my faith.

I came to believe in the Christian God aged 8, having experienced something "other-worldly" on a school trip to a local church. Having experienced this odd feeling, I reasoned that it happened in a church (that I had been in many times before) so, perhaps going to a church would provide the answer. To cut a long story very short - I became a Christian.

That was eighteen years ago. In the last year, I have really been struggling with what it means to follow Jesus Christ. I have been looking at the church and seeing mass hypocrisy. I have seen rich people backing up their ideal of "good behaviour". I have seen poor people find a crutch to lean on. I have seen lots of people happy to join a "club" and try everything they can to get others to join this "club". What I haven't seen much of is the real problems in the world tackled by the people that should be tackling them.

There is a quote on the latest Delirious album which simply states:
"If it's not acceptable in the kingdom of heaven, then it's not acceptable here."
How many Christians believe this? Let me ask you this question (and "being a Christian" has no moral leverage here) - "What are you doing to change the sorry state of this world?"

The only thing I would say to Christians is that we have no excuse to do nothing. The good news we have isn't just a "social gospel" - but (among other things) it is a social gospel.

There are people in this world that need help. What are you actually doing for them?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Atheism defined!

I have to admit, this quote found from Atheist Tool Box did make me chuckle slightly:

"Unlike Religion, Atheists do not have to agree on all issues and share similar agendas. Atheists can be conservative or liberal, capitalist or communist, republican or democrat, black or white, male or female. Some Atheists are completely neutral in regards to religion and it's place in society, whilst other Atheists do have certain agendas. Some of the more common Atheistic agendas include the separation of church and state and the teaching of evolution in our school systems. It must be said however that these are individual groups within the Atheist community and in no way represent the Atheist community as a whole."

As far as I am aware, Christians do not agree on all issues. We have conservative Christians, and liberal Christians, capitalist Christians, communist Christians, Republicans, Democrats... there have even been some black and white Christians... I'm sure I've met both male and female Christians also...

I also have to giggle at this quote,
"It must be said however that these are individual groups within the Atheist community and in no way represent the Atheist community as a whole."
- well, that never applies to Christian groups...

It really annoys me that such things as this exist. And they exist on all sides of the arguement. When Christians act as if Atheists are, in some way, worse than they are it makes me cringe. Well, they're Atheists! Surely they are just... um... wrong! - Well, no actually. Similarly, when certain atheists (not representing the Atheist community as a whole, of course) make statements like the above, it also makes me cringe.

I doubt it will happen, but I long for some decent, respectful dialogue. While there are extremists and "anonymous extremists" (i.e. people who are unaware they are extremists) on every side of the debate, respectful dialogue seems unlikely. While so many Christians still use very dodgy (and often downright terrible) science to "prove" their agenda, and while so many Atheists see the religious as silly and unable to offer anything to a debate that has already (in their minds) been sealed - the future looks bleak.

I still live with hope that both groups will one day learn to not vilify the other, see them first as fellow human beings, and enter into what could be a very enlightening debate.

I am aware that my sarcasm is probably not helping my cause here, but the quote was so bizarre I couldn't just let it pass. I apologise.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


It is quite often that life gets compared to the weather. One can feel "bright and sunny" or feel like "there is a dark cloud over-head". It is interesting that we choose such a system to portray our feelings as we have no real control over the weather. Do we view our emotions in the same light? Are we right to do so? I don't really know.

Personally, to use this method of description, I feel that in my life at present it is persisting down (see what I did there..!). I feel quite drenched (and I don't mean that in a jargony, sentimental Christian kind of way!). If there is anyone actually reading this I would appreciate a prayer or two.


Thursday, 14 May 2009

Introduction to Biblical Language 101

As I'm currently lecturing undergraduate Biblical Hebrew, the following thought came to mind in a recent lecture: 'I am not actually teaching Biblical Language, but Ancient Language.' The fact that the bible was originally (kind of) written in this language is almost coincidental. What I mean is, the original writers of the bible generally used words, phrases, ideas and imagery that already existed, in order to speak of God, His nature, activity, thought process and identity. Against that, today we have what I would actually call Biblical Language - i.e. Language that is derived from the Bible.

Take, for example, the words we use to describe God:


I can think of very few instances where we use the word "Lord" in today's culture. Our understanding of the word is extremely limited. We would refer to the "House of Lords", or maybe our understanding of "Lord" comes from buying a 1cm2 plot of land in some estate in Scotland, to receive a certificate saying we are a Lord (or a Lady, of course). There is a parent at my wife's school who insists on using this title on any correspondence he writes. Having attained it via the above method, most people think it is slightly humorous; certainly not noble in any way.

Certainly in Christian domains, the word Lord has it's primary meaning as "God" - whereas in Hebrew (and Greek) the word meant first "master" or even "father" (figuratively). This is in a culture which understood and employed a slave/master society.a People would have seen that there was something in the role of the Lords they saw that reflected something about the identity of God. In fact, though not a perfect model, seeing God as someone with the authority to do and say what he pleases, to give whatever to whomever he pleases, is lost in our current use of the word "Lord" with regards to God. A Lord simply isn't that in today's Western Post-modern world. Yet we hang on to these words because "they're in the Bible", forgetting that they were not originally "religious" terms. They were words that helped people understand who God is, because it gave them an example. In a day where Lord is primarily "God" - what is our example? Whence do we find our analogy for the person of God? The answer is, we don't. Calling God "Lord" is as useful as calling God "Bread Guardian" - which is where we get our word Lord from!b

Okay, perhaps there is slightly more reason to call God Lord than Bread Guardian but my point is that perhaps it is time to rethink our labels for God?


This brings me to another word we use for God - King. It has been a long time since England had a King, at least not in my lifetime. In a similar vein to the previous argument, I would say that we don't know enough about kings to successfully ascribe the label to God. Our experience of kings in our culture is either of a relatively useless monarchy (who are more often than not famous for all the wrong reasons!) or a tyrant, unwilling to allow a democracy. Is this a good example of what God is like? Set this against the role of "the king" in biblical times. The king was a man (usually) respected above anyone else. He had sovereign authority and power like no-one else, and he lead his people and ensured their safety (if he was a good king!). All of these things are what we are taught about God, but they are so far removed from our experience. We are told that God is Sovereign - but we never really see sovereignty in action. We are told that, as King, God is exalted high and reigns, rules and looks after his people - but where do we see this in our lives? Anywhere?

The problem is a difficult one to solve. Labelling God "our Prime Minister" or "our President" just doesn't quite seem right either. Though we understand the role of such people better than say, a king, God's role is quite different to theirs, so they remain unhelpful! God is not elected. God is not a leader who must make laws and policies to appease his voters... There are not other "parties" who can challenge the leadership of God... it just doesn't quite work. The CEO is a slightly better role comparison, but there are so many negative connotations to CEO, that I'd rather stay with King!!! This is not an easy problem to solve.

Forward Steps?

There was recently a new translation of the Bible produced called The Voice. One of the ideas behind this new version was that it would seek to ditch "jargony" words. However, I feel they have not been anywhere near as thorough with their pruning of such words. We need to realise that words like "King", "Lord", are all "Christiany" words today. This article could continue into a book-length rant, but rest assured, I won't let it. Suffice it to say, I believe we have a problem to solve.

a It is worth noting that the "slave trade" of the A.N.E. was quite different to the more recent slave trade perpetrated by the White West.
b "Lord" comes from Olde English word hlaford which derives from an earlier word hlafweard from hlaf "bread" + weard "guardian".

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Guide to joining a new church...

Ten Most Important Steps

  1. Understand the principles
    Remember, joining a church is primarily about what is best for you. The good news is that many churches now see themselves as glorified businesses. This is wonderful news for the "consumer" because "the customer is always right". If you are unable to find a church (Ltd) that completely caters for all of your needs, then find one where you can be vocally belligerent, in the hope that the church (Ltd) will alter its produce and services.
  2. Find the "power families"
    Once you have chosen the right church that will service your needs, the next step is to seek out the people/families in the church who are part of the "inner-circle". These are usually rich, well educated members of the church. This 'inner circle' have quite a powerful influence over the church. Only sometimes are they 'elders' or 'deacons', though the best description is probably 'majority shareholders'. Admittedly, it can be difficult to be accepted into this group if you are not rich and/or educated. However, perseverance is a virtue.
  3. Do not aspire to a Leadership position
    It is important to follow this rule. In churches (Ltd) most forms of official leadership (we shall call them 'management') are fodder for all manner of public criticism. It is far easier to remain a customer, and demand to "see the manager" when you want to influence the direction of the company. Ensure the management do not make the same "mistake" twice.
  4. Get to middle-age as quick as possible
    This is a fundamental part of joining a church. It may seem as though the church (Ltd) directs most of its efforts toward "youth" and the "elderly". However, this is usually because it pacifies them on business matters, leaving the 'inner-circle' to get on with directing the company. Middle-agers will benefit most from many church companies.
  5. Choose a house-group wisely
    This decision could potentially decide how influential you will be in the church that you join. It is absolutely imperative that you join the house-group of one of the 'inner-circle', for numerous reasons. Firstly, they will probably have a nice, big comfortable house. Secondly, it is in this house group that most business decisions will be made. The church management shall be informed in due course.
  6. Learn the jargon particular to your new church
    For effective communication, and to look like you mean business, make sure you use buzz-words often. Naturally, each company has different jargon, and moving from one organisation to another can mean learning almost a new language. Where words such as 'river', 'presence' and 'flow' may be popular jargon in one branch, these can be replaced by 'fire', 'journey' and 'conversation'.
  7. Practise your "mmm"
    "Mmms" are an extension of jargon language. It is the sound of approval, vital for showing allegiance to influential people. When trying to show particular agreement, a "double-mmm" can be employed. You should never do more than a "triple-mmm" - people will think you've gone insane.
  8. Learn golf
    A very effective way of socialising with others in your new organisation is to play golf. Being good (but not too good) at golf will result in many invites to more personal social events. This does work better for male customers, though it certainly does not exclude females.
  9. Buy a Cafetiere
    Coffee is the drink of church. Even if you prefer tea, it is wise to learn to stomach coffee. Furthermore, you can fulfil your charitable duties by buying fairtrade coffee. After this, there is no real need to do much else charitable. Charity is expensive, and hard work, and therefore it is useful to find short-cuts.
  10. Do not commit
    This is the golden rule. Do not commit to your new organisation. This does not mean you should up and leave at the first disagreement. However, always remember that if the management and 'inner-circle' consistently fail to meet your personal needs, it is time to swallow your pride, and admit you may have chosen the wrong church. Be encouraged though, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

(Please note that this is satire. I actually think the Church is a wonderful institute. God loves, and lives in the Church. I hope, though, this article makes you think or at least makes you chuckle.)

God bless

Love will find a way?


On the recent Delirious? DVD (My Soul Sings) of live tracks, there is a version of their top 20 song "Love Will Find a Way". The song portrays a blend of emotions, moving from utter repugnance at the attitude most of us have toward poverty, to the overwhelming sense of hope that love brings - that, little by little, love is breaking through people's indifference. In fact, it is breaking people. Bringing people face to face with the problems in this world, yet encouraging them that they can make a difference.


However, the world is still in a terrible mess. The chaos we find ourselves in is seemingly cataclysmic: MPs claim for multiple properties, while millions sleep on the streets. People are dying from obesity, while millions die of starvation. World leaders pay billions to send probes to Mars (to send back more pictures of nothing), while a beggar is £5 short of eating today. Of course, what the world needs is another picture of a desert on a planet which is 266 million miles away...

In the creation poem of Genesis, there is an odd Hebrew phrase - תהו ובהו (tohu vavohu) - usually translated formless and void. However, it can give the impression of very chaotic - where תהו means chaos and ובהו means empty. If there is one thing that typifies the world today, surely it must be "tohu vavohu". We are in chaos. We are "empty". The emptiness is filled with material things that pull our attention from the real problems we can help to solve. After all, another private jet for [unnamed evangelist] is what the poor really need. Furthermore, if I contribute to that, I am giving to the Lord, aren't I?


Pondering the Delirious lyric, I wonder what "way" love will find. Will it lead us into a river, like an early 21st century Sat-Nav? Will it spend most of the journey "searching for a satellite"? I have spent a lot of time reading great books, and hearing great songs that inspire me to make a difference - yet here I am, sat at my computer having done very little; still reading. Still hearing. When will we wake up? Love, show us the way. Press into our faces the issues that we have the resources to solve. Do not let us drown you out with worry over maintaining our riches, or affording the best cut of meat.

The Bible says that God is love. So I have confidence in the Delirious? lyrics that "love" will find a way. He always does.

Love Will Find a Way

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Promise I Made...

...started to fade.
Girls Aloud, The Promise, 2008.


This is the first of a few blogs I intend to write concerning the modern understanding of certain words and phrases, and the theological and philosophical consequences.

Giving Birth to Promises

So, back to Girls Aloud. Their recent song, The Promise in which the singer(s) states that the "the promise I made started to fade" is one of their most successful tracks, earning them a UK Singles Chart number 1, and their only BRIT award™ to date for Best British Single of 2008. It is at this point that I feel I must ensure you that I am not a Girls Aloud fanatic. Honestly. All of this information is provided courtesy of wikipedia (I'm such a good researcher... ahem...).

So, what's my point? Well, could it be that this song gives an insight into how people view a promise in contemporary society? Listening to the way people speak, I think it does. The notion that a promise can "fade" (or at least start to!) is interesting. I'm not sure it is right though. It seems as though people seem to think that a promise is something that one brings into being, and it exists as a thing in its own right.

For example, if I promise something, I am unleashing this thing, this promise, into the world to see how it will do. If it does well, if it survives then that is great. If however, it doesn't do so well, one day it will eventually run out of breath and die - the promise is mourned, and we all move on with our lives, not necessarily unaffected, but move on we do.

Further to this, if a promise is a thing in its own right, if it somehow exists independently of the one who "made" it, then should what the promise stand for suddenly be in opposition to the best wishes of its creator, it will be destroyed in the pursuit of happiness and comfort. After all, of the two of us (i.e. me and the promise) I am more important.

This, of course, is a very strange way to view a promise - because "promises" don't actually exist. You can't cage one, study one, reason with one, trade them (though people may try!) - essentially a "promise" has to be, at most, two things: Firstly, it an English word. Secondly, it is what the English word describes. What it describes is a commitment on behalf of the one who has "made" the promise to do (or not do) something in the future. So you see, a promise cannot exist independently of anyone because it isn't a real thing to exist! A promise is a commitment to something, once that commitment is no longer there, neither is the "promise" - and if there was no commitment in the first place, then the "promise" was a mere figment.

Perhaps this misunderstanding has arisen because the language that we use concerning promises. We speak of "making" a promise, as if a promise is something that can be created. The truth is when someone "makes" a promise, they are not really making anything at all. A promise is simply a verbal indication that one is committing to something (either action or restraint).

Theological and Philosophical Consequences

I have to ask, then, what impact does this skewed view of a promise have on theology and the way we think of life in general. I think it has HUGE consequences. When a couple decide to marry and "promise" before God and to each other that they will remain together, and fight against all difficulties to this end; if this promise is understood as anything but a commitment to this course of action, it is in grave danger of failing. Of course, marriages break down for all kinds of legitimate reasons - however, if from the very outset there is a grave misunderstanding of what a promise is, and the implications it has on the people "making" it, the success of the marriage is based completely on chance. This is not what God intended.

Furthermore, understanding the promise of God for eternal salvation as a commitment on God's behalf to that end, it becomes far more secure. Also, how many times do we "promise to do [x, y or z] for you, Lord" in a time of emotional encounter with God? Do we really mean what we are saying? Rather, do we even understand what we are saying?! "Lord, I am absolutely committing to do [x, y, or z] for You" - that seems quite different to the sappy "promises" many of us make to our God - where we simply wait to see how it all plays out..

We make our promises "willy-nilly" these days, because we have forgotten what a promise really is. I am sure we would make far fewer if we realised what it really meant.

Of course, feel free to completely disagree with me. I promise I won't it against you. :)

Friday, 30 January 2009

Canon Andrew White

The Times Online recently published a story about Canon Andrew White's ministry out in Baghdad. He truly is an amazing person - and not just because he looks ever-so-slightly like Morpheus from the Matrix. I had the privilege of meeting and "working" with him a few years ago at a conference in Solihull (of all places!). Not quite the Black Country (where I was living at the time) and certainly not quite Baghdad! Either way, we both ended up there. Him, because he is an inspiring person and had an amazing message to bring; me, because the drummer in my band was playing in the worship band and I was stepping in last minute for a bass player who couldn't make it!!

At that particular time, he was regularly meeting up with Yasser Arafat. For some reason that he could not quite understand, Andrew's son had taken a particular liking for Arafat and always would ask that his best wishes be passed on whenever Andrew was going to speak with him! In return, Arafat gave Andrew's son one of his turbans for his birthday! That may seem bizarre, but it did a world of good for me. It highlighted how we completely vilify people who are evil, and turn them into less-than-humans. Andrew's son, though, knew the truth: these people are exactly human, and as such are no more in need of God's grace than me, or you, or Canon Andrew White! And are no less deserving of love from those who claim to follow Christ. Remember, as Shane Claiborne has popularly pointed out, even St. Paul began as a terrorist... (of sorts...)

Please pray for the work that Andrew is doing out in Baghdad. It must be so difficult. His family live back in England, and he is also suffering with Multiple Sclerosis. Yet he carries on. His church is attended by over 2000 people, from all denominations, and indeed some are even from other faiths!! As he continues to be involved in negotiating peace and the release of victims of kidnapping, it is glaringly obvious (at least to me) that the world is a better place for this amazing guy.

Finally, on a more positive note, I think this story completely sums up both sides of Andrew's life (i.e. his approachable, everyday-man side and his extremely important global ministry side!). During one of the breaks of the Solihull conference, we were sat in the back room eating from a few bags of greasy chips bought from the local chippie (if Solihull has such a thing...!). Eating, laughing and telling jokes, we were all getting on very well. Midway through Andrew telling us a joke about "an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman" his mobile phone rang. He paused from his joke to look at the caller-ID. "Oh" he said. "I'd better take this; it's the Whitehouse". And off he went into a back room! Classic.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

A Bible Commentary...

Admittedly, this is slightly irreverent... but it's still quite funny!

Quick Update...

I'm having to write this from my phone, as upgrading to 'KDE4.2' (a new version of linux) has played havoc with my computer! It looks nicer, but I'll need to do a fair bit of work to get everything working correctly! Fun.

Lecturing Hebrew at Birmingham Christian College has been going well. Even if many of the students are staring at me with a look that can only be interpreted as meaning, "keep talking like that little man, and I'll cause you pain." Which is a good sign I'm going at the right pace for a degree course. I jest, but some students are really getting hold of it[; which is really good.

I managed to play golf again recently - after my injury (grade 3 ankle sprain) - and managed my first ever birdie on a par 4 hole. This is good!

Finally, I shall be applying to read for an MPhil at Trinity College Bristol. Their O.T. supervisors are world class, and I'm really hoping my application succeeds.

That's it for now!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Theology Detached

"I don't just know about you with concepts and words, but have experienced you, lived you, suffered you."
        Karl Rahner

Internal Affairs

In my attempt to keep up with current trends in popular theology I have become embroiled in the Emergent conversation/debate/journey/community (I use those words synonymously to mean "buzz-word"). I actually think I am more 'Emergent' than I would readily admit - which is a paradoxical statement to include on something published on the world wide web (perhaps I am more readily willing to admit it than I thought).

Either way, certain spheres of the Emergent discussion (there's another one...buzzz) appear to have become something of an inward looking dialectic where the primary focus is on argument, or discussion, or questioning over what is right, wrong or 'both/and'. The unfortunate reply (or comment) to clever blogs is often something like, "wow, that's really good. That will get my mind thinking today" and rarely,

"wow, that's really good. I must change".

The Emerging Movement started off so well: challenging beliefs in the hope that it would bring about a change in the lives of those who were willing to listen - though this is still the aim of some, I am concerned it is not for many. One of the big problems I see in Evangelicalism is that it has tried to take the monopoly on truth, regardless of reality (more on this later). Now I see a similar thing happening in the Emerging debate. Though previously admitting that I am more emergent than I let on, I certainly do not agree with enough emergent thought to label myself with it. Yet I do believe that the questions asked in the emergent movement are essential questions - which I suppose derive from a preceding question of "What do we do with all this liberal stuff?" (adding "without just saying it's from the devil"). The focus was on exploring faith; then it became about defending a movement; now too many are engaging in a clique, completely separating themselves from conservative orthodoxy - when it is conservative orthodoxy that needs to participate most. To be challenged, and to bring challenges.

Real Orthodoxy

It cannot have escaped the attention that words such as "unorthodox" and "heretic" are currently popular argot in emerging circles. To the conservative these words are very uncomfortable - which is why they are used so often, most likely! - and it is interesting to ponder why this is so. Many people are completely unaware that our current evangelical orthodoxy is the product of hundreds and hundreds of years of debate, reform, renewal, war, hatred, sacrifice, heresy, apologetic, love, revolution, research and controversy, among other things! In fact, there is not even agreement on what is absolutely orthodox among the most conservative evangelical denominations - with some opting for more Calvinist theology, and others preferring Armenian theology. Though I shall quickly swerve to avoid that debate...

If one is to declare a leaning of theology, it must be insisted that this theology is built on truth (of some sort!). Now, as I mentioned, I believe that Evangelicalism has attempted to claim the monopoly on truth, regardless of reality. What I mean by this is that there is a tendency to say, "well 'this' is what the bible says, so we must believe 'that'." - even if what we see/experience is completely different. The controversy here is highlighted by what is really meant, vis: "well this is what [I say that] the bible says, so we must believe that". Of course, conversely there are those who would begin with experience and say, "well 'this' is what is happening, so 'that' cannot be true", meaning "well 'this' is what is happening [to me, now], so 'that' cannot be true [for anyone, ever]."

Allow me to offer a question: Can truth exist outside of reality? If we say that something is true, but it never actually exists - then is it really true? The problem with the bible is that one can make it say almost anything (though that is really a problem with humankind!). There are plenty of verses which, when taken out of context, or even in context but misinterpreted, can be used to support many contradictory points of view. If truth is considered truth "for its own sake" and not grounded in reality, then discussion of differing views remains philosophical - and usually results in a faction where one group believes 'this' because it is "right for them" and the other believes 'that' because it is "right for them". Truth is separated from reality.

There is, included in this, the debate over whether Scripture is Ipsissima Verba (the very words) or Ipsissima Vox (the very voice) of God. Again, allow me to make our journey uncomfortable by swerving around that issue also! Perhaps that is for another time.

So, truth without regard for reality is not really truth at all. It is no wonder that postmodernity has rejected the metanarrative - the metanarrative existed somewhere up in the ether! Truth is relative when it is not grounded in reality - as is theology. Theology that is completely detached is not grounded in God, but in man's philosophy; it is protected only by man's thought. However, I would add that reality which exists with no regard for truth is just as dangerous. Theology that is merely a reflection of what man, so far, understands and knows is also not grounded in God, but in man's ability to experience - which is not only limited, but is different depending on the person. There are times where experience (or rather, one's interpretation of existence) is misleading and gives a false indication of what is true. In these cases, it is important to learn what is true in reality not in immediate experience.

Reattaching Theology

Thus, we are left with a Hermeneutical ordeal. How can immediate experience and actually reality be identified? Indeed, the task is impossible in many instances. However, if truth in reality is to be achieved then attention to both elements of absolute truth and elements of subjective experience must be given. If a person's faith is built on a whole set of doctrine and one aspect of that doctrine is proved wrong, then that person risks losing the whole of their faith. Likewise, if another person's faith is built on the sum of their experiences so far and they encounter something that appears to contradict that faith, that person risks losing the whole of it. I suggest a better way: let faith (and indeed mission, service, and all that comes with faith) be built on loving God and loving each other. If this is the case, then no-one need be worried about admitting they were wrong, because they still love God and one another. So, it turns out that Jonah was a parable after all - accept it and move on. Or, it turns out Jonah is an historical account, and new evidence now points to such - accept it and move on. People will believe different things. But rather than vilify those who don't fit into our particular "doctrine cast", let's celebrate that we have Jesus in common! Faith is so important, but it is dead without deeds - so, I would say, is theology that is detached.

I hope that one day we will be brave enough, and sensible enough to admit that we may not have everything completely correct. Then we have a choice: accept it and move on; or detach our theology and defend our position. I pray we choose wisely.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Better In Koine

This video is for anyone who has ever studied Greek at Bible College (or equivalent!) It's a classic (and purposefully cheesy before people start telling me "I suck"... :-) ) It's the best thing since Baby Got Book!


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Birmingham Christian College

שָׁלוֹם לָכֶם

"Shalom Lakem" (Peace to you!)

Today was my first day of lecturing Hebrew at my old bible college. Though being excruciatingly nervous to begin with, it went well - in fact, I may have even been caught enjoying myself for the second half of the lecture... It was a coming together of three things that I have been wanting to be involved in for a while now; namely, the Hebrew language, lecturing, and Birmingham Christian College. For all three to take place at the same time is something of a shock, but something I am extremely happy and excited about.

Birmingham Christian College

B.C.C. has been through many changes in it's life - even the beginning of B.C.C. was a merger of two previous colleges (Birmingham Bible Institute and Springdale College). More recently, since I graduated, the college had moved to another premises (a far bigger premises) and began life under the new Principle Dr Raymond Pfister. I am not sure of all the details, but the Principle has now moved on to other things and the college is now in a stage of transition between the old way of doing things, and the new. The post of principle has been made redundant and the college is now being run by a managing team (which is going well, I understand). A combination of this and a massive flood in the east block over the holidays has made the first week back somewhat hectic - but nothing that is proving too difficult.

Many people are talking about how good it is to be a part of a "new beginning" and how the college is now "starting something new" etc. etc. however, what strikes me is not the new beginning, but the continuation of the story of the college. It has been through some pretty rough times over the decades, yet still it is there, making disciples, training leaders, confusing students and changing the world (well, at least changing the people who change the world...). It's a fascinating "journey" (please excuse the 'buzz words') the college has been on - though, I use the word literally - the college has actually been moved around Birmingham numerous times! Now it is moving in a more non-physical way. However you look at it - it is a pleasure to be involved with. I am looking forward to finding out what part I might play in the "morrow" of B.C.C.

Thursday, 8 January 2009


I feel I need to journal my dream from last night and share a few thoughts at the end.

I was fed up of having a bloated feeling in my stomach, so I had some tests done at the hospital. Thought nothing of them and carried on with life in general. When the results came back, the news was very bad. There was a complication and it turned out I was going to die from whatever the problem was (they did say what, but I didn't really hear in my dream).

As it turned out (in the world of dreams) the hospital were going to perform euthanasia. This was all going to have to happen on a very short time-scale. I think the day was possibly a Tuesday and my funeral was arranged for 2:30pm on the Saturday. So I was to go into the hospital Saturday morning to receive this euthanasia.

The next thing I knew it was Friday evening, I was at my parents' house with Hannah and we were sat around in the front room chatting and drinking tea etc. I had been absolutely fine with the fact that I was about to die. I think I just accepted that it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it. My mom had taken it quite badly, and so had Hannah, I think. Dad was keeping his emotions hidden, though I think I understood that he was upset.

I was even joking about the eventuality. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I remember my response was,

"Ah well, it doesn't matter. I'll be dead by then anyway." Everyone looked at me in disgust, to which I had to reply, "Well, it's true".

This seemed to be enough. I think I received a raised eyebrow from Hannah, but that was the extent of the criticism of my words - after all, they WERE true.

Suddenly it hit me. Like a train. I was going to die tomorrow and there was nothing I could do about it. This was crazy! I felt fine, there was no way I could possibly be dying tomorrow. I began to panic and started asking why I had to die. Couldn't we just wait and see if this problem I had would kill me or not? Or surely we could at least wait a little longer before going through with this course of action. Wait until I'm in pain at least?!

I think we phoned the hospital to find out, and they're answer was no, it had to be done tomorrow. The problem I had was inevitably going to kill me, and very soon. When it happened it would be accompanied by severe pain and would completely incapacitate me. They asked whether or not I wanted the last hours of my life to be spent like that, or like I am now (for some reason, I agreed that euthanasia was the best course of action).

It was an extremely strange feeling. I have never been faced with death before (and still haven't really; it was only a dream - but I have never had such a "real" dream). Being a Christian I believed that this was not the end, however I was still a little unsure of how I felt. Whatever happened afterwards, this would be the end of this life. Full stop. Over. Never to come back to it. Leave every single aspect of it behind.

For some reason, I asked Dad to take me out for a drive. We would go to the train station and book the tickets for tomorrow (we were taking the train to the hospital...). By this point it was night. On the way there, I started to come to terms with the gravity of what was happening. My dad asked, "So are you not so sure about it now then?" (speaking of my belief in God and an afterlife). I informed him that I wasn't really concerned with what was going to happen after I died, but what wasn't going to happen.

I burst into tears as I said, "I'll never get to hold my son in my arms. Or take him over Barrel Rock." (Barrel Rock is a place in Bude, Cornwall where we go on holiday. I am quite looking forward to taking my kids there!) I think the Barrel Rock comment was specifying a more general concept of sharing experiences with a son.

At this my dad also cried. Doing those things had meant a lot to him, and he understood how horrible it would be to never get the chance to do them. We pulled up outside Rowley Regis train station. Dad said to me, "you'll still go there" (meaning Barrel Rock). I'm not really sure what that meant! I think it was my dad not quite understanding the theology of the afterlife, and assuming I believed I would be some sort of ghost or spirit able to still go places on the earth. I got the impression that he didn't actually believe what he was saying, he was just trying to make me feel better.


Then I woke up. Feeling extremely... uncomfortable. I wasn't quite awake enough to realise I had been dreaming, so I still felt that stomach turning dread of imminent death. It was truly horrible.

Throughout my dream I had been both looking forward to seeing what happens and being absolutely petrified at the thought of leaving everything I had behind, especially Hannah and the chance of having any kind of family with her. I had resolved in my dream to let her know that I wanted her to move on and that she should never feel bad about finding someone else - it's what I would want (etc. etc...) though I don't think I ever got chance to - which is possibly a subconscious attempt at admitting I would struggle with that!

Anyway, I don't think I've had a dream that has affected me this much for years and years. Ironically, the only dream that ever did was a recurring dream I had as a child where Mom had a terminal illness. What a morbid mind I appear to have!

The dream, however, has genuinely forced me to rethink my priorities. Life is not guaranteed. Life insurance only pays out money - not more life. I shall resolve to give this life the respect and attention it deserves. Not just for myself, but for all people. Thinking of the horrific events in Gaza recently, it is such a horrible thought that life has ended for so many of those people. How cheaply life is viewed. Not just by those killing others, but by we who hear the stories and think, "oh, that's a shame." It is far more than a shame. Life is such an amazing thing, and our crime is that we don't really realise.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Behold the Liberator!

This is my attempt to review the recent translation of the New Testament (and soon the Old too) called simply the "Voice". The initial idea for this translation was proposed by Chris Seay, a prominent Emergent theologian - but don't allow that to cloud your perceptions just yet.

When I first heard of this translation I was extremely excited as it seemed to promise something I had been looking for; i.e. a translation of the bible that attempted to replace some Christian "jargon" words, produce a literary work that reflected the different literary styles of the original authors (as opposed to 99% of bible translations where every book sounds the same - apart from the content), and to make this new translation suitable for reading aloud in large sections (as this is what happened with the original scrolls of the New Testament).

For just over £6 from amazon, I joyfully bought myself a copy - it was delayed in arriving... twice... but eventually the thud on the floor mat inside the front door heralded its arrival. As with any new translation, I flicked straight to the "controversial passages" to see what they had made of them... not overly impressed.

Anyway, perhaps the more popular verses would be better (John 3:16 and the like), not bad; not great - but perhaps I am being a little over pro-traditional. So, down to reading Luke (seemed a good place to start)...

For me, there were too many times where I thought, "Oh, that's a bit naughty" (referring to the translation of the Greek - not the sauciness of Luke... of course.) Also, I think they have replaced the wrong words. Or at least replaced them with the wrong words. "Christ" is rendered as "Liberating King" throughout the New Testament. This seems a little clumsy to me. However, the problem is exacerbated when the shortened term "The Liberator" is used. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get connotations of the Terminator out of my mind - which isn't always helpful when reading Luke, I have found.

There are far worse crimes of which this translation is guilty however. The author of the extremetheology.com blog puts the translation through a fairly crushing critique; however, I don't agree with absolutely everything he says. He certainly has a not-so-secret hatred of anything Emergent - which doesn't help the objectivity of his review! Still, much of his exegetical argument stands.

Having said all of that, the Voice is actually very enjoyable to read! I found I read through Luke with great joy! The language of the text really does paint a very vivid picture in your mind and the person of Jesus (the Liberator... [chuckle]) is given real character (which is ironic after my terminator comment, I suppose!). Like The Message before it, I would have serious issues with accepting the Voice as a useful translation of the Greek biblical texts - however, having access to one (even if it is just to read casually) is probably not a bad idea.

So, behold the Liberator!