Thursday, 27 July 2006

Comparative religion

“Now, don’t tell me you’re going to be silly,” said Lady Mounteagle. “That’s just what we meant; to link up the great religions of East and West; Buddha and Christ. Surely you must understand that all religions are really the same.”

“If they are,” said Father Brown mildly, “it seems rather unnecessary to go into the middle of Asia to get one.”

- G.K.Chesterton, from The Red Moon of Meru

For further reflection see The Uniqueness of Christ by Geisler.

Unknown categories

Piper on Rom 12.2 and Athanasius [warning: mp3 file]
We must not preach only in the categories that are present in our listeners' minds when they come. If we do, we betray the gospel, and conceal the glory of God.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Heb 10:34

Dave's been doing a few posts on money, tithing and giving (here, here and here) probably cos he's writing a book about it all (see here). So, it got me thinking a bit about tithing and possessions and such.

But sadly I hadn't applied my thoughts about contentment to myself. A few days later, I realised that I've been being all materialistic again. (Yes, I know, I doubt that'll make the headlines.)

Presenting symptoms:
- hankering after Nice Things
- imagining just what Nice Things I can get if/when I've more money (ie expectations rising with income demonstrating lack of contentment)
- worrying that I won't have enough money (when I remember things like car insurance)
An evil and unbelieving heart
Unless taken care of, falling away from the living God.
To be exhorted every day, as long as it is called "today," that I'm not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

I wonder, is it easy to imagine you're not materialistic when you have money to have all you think/feel you need? Does it numb you?

I too easily lose sight of Christ and, forgetting his worth and glory, grow tired of not having Nice Things I see around. I find myself hankering after Nice Things instead of pursuing the more splendidly satisfying beauty of Christ. It's so dangerous - a desire for lesser things which is allowed to grow (or even cultivated!), chokes the desire for the best. When will I learn the reality of Proverbs 10.22 and Matt 13.44?

Lord, save me from nice, middleclass, homely aspirations!
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
"Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him."
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. - Heb 10.32-39

Monday, 24 July 2006

Tell me the old, old story

On Friday I had a great 3-hour driving lesson: everything went smoothly, I felt confident, and only stalled a couple of times. On Saturday my sister arrived, stopping over on her way back to Aberdeen: wonderful to see her, as I rarely do. On Sunday I got to be back in my Belfast church, and out to the Minister's family for lunch before back to spend the rest of the time with my lovely sister. Plus a friend at church thought her friend who's at New Horizon might be able to find me a lift back from the event this evening at which Piper is speaking, so I could go to it and not be stranded 60 miles north of Belfast with no transport.

This morning in quick succession 1) my hope of going to hear Piper speak left me with a negative answering text from my friend's friend, 2) my sister left me for Aberdeen and 3) my clutch control left me in my driving lesson. I feel I spent more of those 3 hours stalling than driving. And that was quite tiring.

I want to curl up in a chair and cry read a novel, drink tea and eat chocolate. But that won't help anything, so someone please tell me the gospel instead...

Friday, 21 July 2006

How are you?

It was an enormous gilt effigy of the human eye, surrounded with rays of gold, and taking up as much room as two or three office windows.
'What on earth is that?' asked Father Brown, and stood still.
'Oh, a new religion,' said Flambeau, laughing; 'one of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any. Rather like Christian Science, I should think. The fact is that a fellow calling himself Kalon (I don't know what his name is, except that it can't be that) has taken the flat just above me. ... He calls himself the New Priest of Apollo, and he worships the sun.'
'Let him look out,' said Father Brown. 'The sun was the cruellest of all the gods. but what does that monstrous eye mean?'
'As I understand it, it is a theory of theirs', answered Flambeau, 'that a man can endure anything if his mind is quite steady. Their two great symbols are the sun and the open eye; for they say that if a man were really healthy he could stare at the sun.'
'If a man were really healthy,' said Father Brown, 'he would not bother to stare at it.'
'Well, that's all I can tell you about the new religion,' went on Flambeau carelessly. 'It claims, of course, that it can cure all physical diseases.'
'Can it cure the one spiritual disease?' asked Father Brown, with a serious curiosity.
'And what is the one spiritual disease?' asked Flambeau, smiling.
'Oh, thinking one is quite well,' said his friend.

- from The Innocence of Father Brown, by Chesterton.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Overheard... cinema queue:

Girl: I'll murder ye!
Boy: Well I'll murder ye to death, so ah will!

[At this, I cracked up. How can you murder someone not to death?]

Nothing left

"A God without wrath
brought men without sin
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

H. Richard Niebuhr (d. 1962), describing theological liberalism in Kingdom of God in America (1937), p. 193.

Compare with this gospel.

[HT: Justin Taylor]

Friday, 14 July 2006

De Futilitate

C S Lewis addressing students during the Second World War is just as relevent to our generation of students:
The more seriously we take our own charge of futility the more we are committed to the implication that reality in the last resort is not futile at all. The defiance of the good atheist hurled at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind the cosmos which he recognises as infinitely valuable and authoritative: for if mercy and justice were really only private whims of his own with no objective and impersonal roots, and if he realised this, he could not go on being indignant. The fact that he arraigns heaven itself for disregarding them means that at some level of his mind he knows they are enthroned in a higher heaven still. *
It reminds me of John Gray's Straw Dogs, in which he strives to propose the opposite to Lewis' premise - that man is just an animal, with no awareness of 'something in or behind the cosmos which he recognises as infinitely valuable and authoritative'. Yet at the end we find Gray despairingly admitting that man seems forever doomed to believe, contrary to Gray's perspective, that there is in fact some higher heaven still.

The humanist and atheist will continue to denounce heaven and earth for its futility and thus bear ironic witness to the transcendant ideal of purpose which they deny.

Is that not what the father/editor of Ecclesiastes suggests when he is done reporting Qoheleth's words of futility? (Eccl 12.9-14) He concludes
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Yet it seems, with the lack of comment he gives to the Preacher's thoughts, that he considers his conclusion drawn from Qoheleth's words rather than in contrast to them. If we find everything vanity, our finding bears witness to the existence of a transcendant standard by which we judge such vanity.

* From 'De Futilitate', in C.S.Lewis Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories [I'm enjoying being back in my parents' home, once more devouring their books until I must leave again!]

Monday, 10 July 2006

Little Miss

(I wrote this before leaving Belgium, so some of it's come true already:)

I'll miss... (regarding things rather than people)

- greeting people (friends, acquaintances, everyone in church, friends of friends, whoever turns up at GBU, etc, etc) with a kiss on the right cheek;
- flash storms where the heavens open with a week's rain in 15min and the thunder rumbles right across the city, cracking overhead so loud that the house shakes;
- a network of buses, trams and metro where if you so wished, you'd never have to walk for more than 5min, and where journeying on any transport in Brussels within an hour costs just 1eur (70p) and between any 2 Belgian towns by train is just 4.50eur; and the experiences involved - the wild dash from jumping off the bus and across the 3 lanes of traffic stopped just before the lights change against you to catch the tram before it pulls away from the stop;
- hot waffle (& coffee) stands in train & metro stations and in the street;
- walking straight across zebra crossings (which are everywhere) with priority - if you hesitate, the cars won't stop;
- REAL hot chocolate. That 'drinking chocolate' stuff in the UK just isn't in the same league;
- taking friends on tours of the gorgeous buildings of Brussels - only done this a few times but it really is fascinating with the bizarre tales and history behind them. Only in Belgium would a King's palace have a room whose ceiling is lined with the green wings of millions of moths;
- being in a country which refuses to contemplate instant coffee. In fact, it's the real stuff which is the cheapest. And the coffee machine was only 8eur (5.50GBP). I don't drink coffee regularly, but when I do, I'm now a coffee snob;
- having a regular source of amusement in the funny uses of English words in shop signs and publicity;
- speaking French;
- the café culture - ok, people sadly don't 'do' hospitality outside of their own family, but the café culture does rock! There are cafés everywhere;
- the friendliness of Belgians, which, while not Irish, is certainly better than English. I shall miss chatting with people at bus stops!
- the wonderful mixture of languages. How shameful to only speak 2! Flemish is a very cool language, however mean the grammar is - it's a pity I still have to say, 'Sorry, ik spreek geen Vlaams.' Still, I understand quite a bit.
- the market in my street every Thursday afternoon;
- the amusement of the cheeky Belgian spirit, albeit wrong - traffic police on the junctions at rush hour lest people all try to jump the lights;
- having 'sausage' as a culnary art form;
- being in a country where comic design is the '5th art' and people seriously read brilliantly designed adult comics on the public transport;
- Elderly Romanian men busking on the metro on the accordion;
- that most housing is terraced (and houses usually at least 4 storeys high), but every house in the terrace is different: different heights, different styles, each balcony is at a different level to that of the neighbouring houses, different façades...;
- people confusedly calling me Marie-Rose by mistake since it's the nearest thing to Rosemary in French, or Rose, since when they do get the order right they imagine it as Rose-Marie - and drop the Marie!
- being in a literary culture. People read. People read the greats of French literature. People read the greats of French literature in the tram, on the metro. For that matter, French literature just is great. Forming a sentence is an art form. Va t'en, ipod: books ain't dead yet!
- When speaking English, lazily using French words where they work better or where there isn't a direct English equivalent.

I look forward to...
- church having an evening service as well as a morning one;
- expository Bible teaching (not that my supplements of Piper on Hebrews haven't been good - but not the same as sitting under it as a whole church);
- doing hospitality (with more than a bedroom-with-kitchenette to use!);
- having the wholey amazingly huge and comprehensive world of Christian books and resources in English to use in ministry
- keeping on serving students with the glorious gospel of our blessed God, supplied by his grace!