Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Not to condone or condemn

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various
passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and
hating one another."

Titus 3:3

This descriptoin of us before "the goodness and loving kindness of our God our saviour appeared" might well provide a good summary of many of the young people currently expressing their various frustrations through the recent violence.

Knowing that without the grace of God we might, like Paul, consider ourselves the "worst of sinners" (1 Tim 1:15), we should no be to quick to condemn (although not condoning) these youths but should seek the love, compassion and grace of God for them.

I suspect that many of them, although not all, come from broken backgrounds, certainly unGodly ones and so need the intervention of God in their lives - as always, our Father remains the answer.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bible first, favourite author second

Now I love Piper & Keller as much as the next man but I felt a prompt from God just last night that it should be Bible first and favourite theologian second. I have begun reading Sam Storms' 'Convergance' and his testimony that his previous 'cessationist' position (that says the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not relevant today) was based primarily on his respect for those who introduced him to that position. In his own words Storms says:

"there is danger in embracing theological arguments based largely on one's respect for the person from whom you first learnt them"

It was after reading a D.A.Carson commnentary on 1 Corinthians and a sober assessment of chapters 12-14 in particular that Storms came to embrace spiritual gifts today (to become a continuist as he calls his new position).

I found reading Storms' account a timely nudge as I can be prone to giving an undue proportion of my time to reading either my favourite authors/theologians or to reading anything other than the Bible. I have always tried to maintain a daily discipline of reading my Bible, not out of a legalistic lifestyle choice but as a commitment to starting the day with truth and the activity of the Holy Spirit in illuminating scripture and provoking a prayer response. My trouble, temptation, is to allow my other reading to have a greater influence - for example my renewed attention on 'justice' coming from Tim Keller's 'Generous Justice' (oustanding book by the way) and not from Isaiah 58/Job/Leviticus and everywhere else in th Bible. I'm not suggesting that it is wrong to receive a provocation from an external source and then end up in The Bible but it is somewhat true that I could develop a theology of justice just from Keller without returning to the word of God. My doctrine would effectively be developed through Bible 'quotes' and the author's convincing arguments rather than being sourced from God.

One of the dangers here is that your current favourite authour/theologian/thinker probably doesn't think exactly in the same way as you. Depending on their various denominational (typed that twice with demon at the beginning!)they view scripture and the world from slightly different worldviews, at least from a variation of the Biblical worldview that you or I may subscribe. I have aligned myself with New Frontiers and their approach to church, ministry, life etc and not with the Presbyterian or Baptist church. For the most part this makes little difference on the largely agreeable elements of our Christian practice but to view these great men as wholly authoratitive and instructive on my personal convictions and doctrines is confused. This train of thought led me to revisit works by New Frontiers leaders where I discovered 'What on Earth is the Church For?' by David Devenish which has become one of the most influential books I've ever read. There is also of course the landmark 'God's Lavish Grace' by Terry Virgo.

I've somewhat moved from what was going to be a simple point - let us not forego the riches of the Bible for what can sometimes be the easier reading of the thoughts of the contemporary successful church leader/author/theologian.
Bible first!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Provocations from Film & TV

A few weeks I was really challenged by 2 pieces from film and television, one fiction (although based on a true story) and the other fact (documentary).

'The Blind Side' (http://www.theblindsidemovie.com/dvd/index.html) is based on the true story of a wealthy American family who take in an essentially homeless boy and eventually become his legal guardians. The title of the film comes from an American Football term as the boy taken in, 'Big Mike', turns out to be a very effective player and goes on to begin a career in the NFL (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-bntZhLTV0).

'Famous, Rich & In The Slums' (http://www.rednoseday.com/whats-on/tv-listings/famous-rich-and-in-the-slums) is a 2-part documentary where 4 celebrity supporters of comic relief (Lenny Henry, Samantha Womack, Reggie Yates & Angela Rippon) travel to the Kibera slum just outside of Nairobi, Kenya, and live there. Although clearly they were being followed by a camera crew, they spent their week living in the slum, working alongside resident Kiberans, and somewhat sharing their lives with the indiginous people.

Watching these 2 pieces produced tears, reflection, provocation, challenge and admiration, sometimes all at the same time.

I have been left wrestling with the issues of the poor, the unwanted and the fatherless and what is an appropriate response. Of course there is the action of giving money to a cause which I certainly can do (and did) but is money the answer. When the plight is abroad and detached can I really effect anything or should my response be to look closer to home and use the provocation to do something rather than nothing. The comic relief piece exposed extreme conditions in one of the poorest areas in the world but that is not the world that I live in. Am I to give it all up here and go there? Is that what God wants? What does the Bible have to say?

Financial resource can obviously make a difference, particularly when giving to a cause but not necessarily to those on your doorstep. Maybe they would benefit more from your time or resources other than money. In The Blindside it was a family and a home although that particular family had genuine wealth as well.
Other questions came such as could I do that? Could I welcome a stranger into my home? What is the risk to me, my family, my posessions!?

These are tough questions too which I have yet to fully resolve the answers. My prayers are that at the very least God increases my compassion for those less priviledged than I, that He increases my resources so that I can give more, that He multiplies the benefit of what I do give (financially)and that I remain thankful for what I do have. I also pray that these provocations are not lost or diluted by ongoing life but remain constantly in my thoughts.

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