Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chill out and surprises

Had a lovely weekend down at Lynton in Devon with Fliss' parents for her mum's birthday, some nice walking, read a couple of books, had some space too down on the beach to myself and in this nice little beach chapel down there...it was really chilled and a good break!

Then yesterday I had an awesome surprise - haven't been surprised like this for ages! Some friends came round for a kind of semi surprise dinner which was great, Fliss cooked Moroccan chicken tagine in this funky dish she was bought for her birthday a few weeks ago: then we all went out - I thought to go and see a house near Saffron Walden which Alan and Nadia wanted to look at - obviously i'm very gullible! - we got to this village called Hemel and they suggested we popped into the pub first for a drink; so we did, and it turns out it was all a big hoax to get me to this pub where Brooks Williams was playing a gig! - they already had the tickets and everything! I was totally speechless, I just looked around slightly dumbfounded, "Whaa...?!"; good friends know how to surprise you well! We had a great evening, amazing music, it was terrific. Check out some Brooks Williams on www.brookswilliams.com - you can download some for free.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The selectivity of history

I was listening to a radio programme this week about the proposed creation of a universal pan-European history textbook.  The idea is to have one single text that can adequately sum up the history of Europe.  Needless to say most are suggesting it's a ludicrous idea; how will you manage to get 27 professors all in a room and get them to agree on everything; history is so subjective, constantly manipulated by those who want to write history their way, as China has been doing by systematically erasing the Tiananmen Square massacre from every text and, with the co-operation of search engines, from any other place of reference.  Winston Churchill famously said, "History will be kind to me, because I will write it."  So this is the conclusion of our age, and it is true - men will doctor history to their own means to make themselves and their empires look good, to discredit opposition, and avoid the suggestion that they did anything that might be considered wrong, unethical, or a contravention of human rights.

This view is often extrapolated to say "objective knowledge of history is inaccessible"; but is this really true?  We don't really mean this, I think.  Because we're very happy to correct those biased views of history that we come across; we can point out the inaccuracies (deliberate or not) in say, the history books of Nazi Germany; we can point out what they omitted, what they confabulated, what they blatantly lied about in order to produce the political force they required. Being able to offer such a critique suggests that although we may espouse no access to history,  this isn't lived out in practice.  In practice, we live as though knowledge IS there 
and we can know about it.  

This view of history is commonly used as an excuse not to consider the claims 
of the New Testament writers concerning Jesus of Nazareth.  Interesting then 
that John is so candid about the aims and the agenda of his account; "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."  Not an orthodox way of writing history...openly acknowledging the finitude of 
your account and your reasons for writing.  There is in this an invitation we should take seriously; this account is not complete, much more could have been written, but this is what is important; here is why I've written it - now read it, and see what you make of it.  

The New Testament does not tell us every detail about the life of Jesus, nor about the early church.  It is a finite account.  It is written for a particular purpose.  But this doesn't render it inaccessible or unverifiable.  The challenge at least is to consider it.  As G.K. Chesterton has said, "Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Rwanda genocide

I've been reading a book on the Rwanda genocide recently - "we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families" by Philip Gourevitch from the New York Times; it's a fantastically well written book and an amazing analysis of an absolutely brutal and shocking time; not something for light reading.  I came across a quote today during his analysis of the time after the refugees returned, and victims and perpetrators were being encourage to live together and forget about the past without addressing it; "For values to change, there has to be an acknowledgment of guilt, a genuine desire for atonement, a willingness to make amends, the humility to accept your mistakes and seek forgiveness.  But everyone says it's not us, it's our brothers and sisters.  At the end of the day, no one has done wrong.  In a situation where nobody is willing to seek forgiveness, how can values change?"  How much the true and amazing news about who God is, revealed in Jesus, and what He accomplished - atonement for all sin and a way for forgiveness from God, and hence between people - is needed in this land.  And is there not a lesson here for us too?  How many today point outside..."everything I do that's wrong is someone else's fault" (Anna Russell, Psychiatric Folksong).  The sentiment for the way forward in Rwanda is the same for everywhere else in the world, for people are the same across the globe with regard to the major issues of life...for our world to change, for peace between men, there must be peace in the heart of men; and for this, we must know that atonement has happened, we must embrace it, and acknowledge what has gone wrong.  Jesus is the only solution for this malady of the heart.

Monday, February 19, 2007

stop the traffik

we had a great time at church last night; phil and anna speaking about living a life that reflects God's character, from Micah 6 - "and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Lots of stuff to think about re living - social justice, speaking out on issues, trading policy, environmental issues, and the stop the traffik campaign at the mo with the wilberforce film coming out soon. It's amazing to realise how many people are affected in different ways by slavery today, and often at the unconscious behest of the consumer paying for the products they're forced to make. Sign the petition at www.stopthetraffik.org/help.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mammoth discussions

So, I'm sitting at the computer running through a pathology tutorial and suddenly the conversation turns to God (can't remember how), and there's like five of us all chatting about it for about 2-3 hours, totally out of the blue. Gotta say my head was tired by the end, but it was fun; the biggest thing I think I realised was the mistrust people have for the Bible, or any other historical source for that matter - not a firm conviction that they don't believe it, but that skeptical epistemology - i can never be sure enough to make a decision based on something I read that I haven't seen. Which leads me to two things; firstly, I need to pray that some revelation comes their way, because it's that nudge from God that gets people to really read something critically and think about it - it's very easy to have opinions on things without having read anything; in a recent survey in Australia, 91% of those surveyed had an opinion about who Jesus was, but only 10% had ever read a gospel; secondly, I should do some more reading on epistemology/Wittgenstein etc, cos it is quite confusing and is a fairly dominating philosophy of knowledge in people's minds. Watch this space...

Monday, February 12, 2007

weekend away

 This is the lovely little cottage - an old dairy - which Fliss and I stayed in the weekend before last, just our side of Norwich, it's a beautiful little place with a little mezzanine bedroom right in the ceiling - for a truly relaxing weekend which we both really needed!

Trip to London

 Here's a couple of photos from our recent trip to London for Jums' birthday; we went to the Globe exhibition and went to see Blood Brothers, and it was a beautiful day for it all!  And met Jums' girlfriend Leah for the first time!  Great day.  Except that Geoff and I spent most of Sunday being violently ill...I blame Borough Market...think it was the salad with the ostrich burger!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Musings in the snow

OK so it's been a few months and I thought I should try and start making this into a regular kind of habit...takes some discipline though. Went to a talk at college last night which was quite thought provoking, from the International Director of the British Red Cross, Matthias Schamle. He was talking about the challenges of remaining relevant and credible to the situations they face today, and amongst what he said a couple of things stuck out as interesting with thoughtful parallels. Firstly, the importance of local actors in the places where aid is needed...they are the first people involved and the ones still left there acting when all the media interest has disappeared.
Secondly he talked about the importance of good leadership.
And lastly about needing first and foremost passion to be involved in this work, but also that you need to bring skills to the situation (and experience) - and how you need experience where you are before you can go elsewhere and work...what makes you think if you suddenly turn up somewhere else everything will be totally different? After all, wherever you go, you are the same person, and carry the difficulties you face with you.

It made me think of the key role of church. Bill Hybels has said, totally underpinned by what Jesus thought (and thinks) about his church, that "the local church is the hope for the world" - that large companies, and policies, and agendas, and plans and projects, can only go so far. It was interesting so see this kind of view echoed in a talk from a different field (philosophically speaking). What was stressed last night was the importance of local communities acting, of reaching individual people and meeting their needs, making a real difference in their lives. This is the very mandate of the church today, this is what we seek to do, or rather, who we seek to be; being called not just to preach good news but to live it out - there is a vast chasm between preaching something and walking the walk, and it is only the practical living out of this life that has effect. This also was brought up in the Red Cross talk - the importance of being practical and real; in terms of living out our worldview we might call this practical theology; underlined by the apostle James - "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" - real faith ultimately has a firmly practical effect.

When I think about what the work of agencies like the Red Cross, I'm profoundly humbled and amazed at what people can do when they have a goal, a vision, and work together for it. When I think about what is accomplished in the lives of individuals and communities the world over through the local church, people caught up together with God's vision for people, his sacrificial love, his desire to see all people living life in all its fullness, which is ultimately living a life for him, secure in image and identity as a result of his love and living daily filled with his Spirit, I'm far more amazed...and excited at what more is to come as those who know the grace of God and the power of His Spirit to transform lives learn more what this means, and push on in receiving that power and love and pouring this out to those in need around; which includes the poor and the needy, but includes everyone who is living this life not knowing that, as Augustine said, "you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless til they find their rest in thee."