Tag Archives: theology

On the Anti-Trump demos

What is perverse about the reaction to Trump in the UK is that compared with many of the other real dictators we’ve hosted in recent years, he’s pretty harmless. Yet the serried ranks of activists have been wheeled out to whinge pointlessly at his presence. Yes, he’s a horrible person and probably a dangerous buffoon, but the ‘virtue signalling’ aka self righteousness of the mob is as obnoxious.

One way to see this is to recognise it as a form of scapegoating: we must find someone to blame for the mess, and he’ll make a fine focus to distract attention from our own failings. This is, of course, the same appeal as that of all populists; Trump has applied it in US politics, whilst the Left blame ‘the rich’ for what’s wrong with the world. Meanwhile the church of course prefers to run with the hounds rather than call ALL to repentance. Why would we want to do that? We’re all fine thank you; there isn’t really a God who will judge us one day, so why don’t we just focus on trying to make this world a better place?

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Verses I’ve never seen before (11)

“[Jesus] said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk 16:15b)

The context of this is Jesus challenging the Pharisees attitude to money – but it clearly extends beyond that. We need to beware assessing the value of our contributions and talents in human terms; too often this leads us to follow the world’s way and live according to its standards. We need to test our activities against God’s agenda instead. Whilst this most clearly applies to the issue of money, it also means we need to beware our friendships with the world and our worldly achievements. If we have non-Christian friends who are barely aware of our being Christians, and certainly have no idea of how significant it is in our lives, then we’ve probably got it wrong. If we value ‘unity’ over clearly declaring God’s truth, then we’ may well end up getting it wrong ““Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Lk 6). However equally if we are so prickly that we never get to be heard because our views are dismissed as those of a bitter minority, then that’s a problem as well.

We need to seek after God’s perspective because it’s He who will judge us in the end; the views of others pale in comparison.

Verses I’ve never seen before (10)

Us Charismatics take pleasure in noisy celebrations. To be fair we’ve built on the Evangelical tradition in this: Charles Wesley and William Booth (of the Salvation Army) both encouraged enthusiastic singing. And of course we spend a lot of our celebrating God and what He’s done for us in our lives. And one of the passages we like to quote as justification is Psalm 98 – whose beginning is well enough known:

O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvellous things…

So far so good

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Yup – a biblical justification for noisy celebrations

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord….

So all creation is getting in on the act to celebrate God. But to do what? Because of what aspect of Who He is? Because He loves us, provides for us, cares for us, saves us?

Er no

He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

We celebrate God’s love a lot. We tend – probably because we are blessed to live in a society where there isn’t much visible corruption of the law – not to realise how horrendous that experience would be. But one day all the injustices and crimes will be addressed; noone will ‘get away with it’. We should probably talk about and celebrate God’s judgement a bit more.

 

Verses I’ve never seen before (9)

“So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Luke 14:33

Yup – it’s in there. It’s just after where Jesus has been warning about the need to assess the cost of becoming a disciple. For the record, the Greek does include the word ‘possessions’. And for some reason I’ve never heard a sermon on it… 😉

It’s from Luke’s gospel, so it’s the same writer who tells us about the common purse of the early church in Jerusalem. And that helps contextualise it: Peter’s comment to Ananias that the property he sold, and its proceeds, remained his to dispose of makes clear that selling everything wasn’t a condition of church member. The challenge is therefore more subtle; we need to ‘give up’ or ‘renounce’ (RSV). It comes down to a matter of attitude: we are holding our possessions in trust. They’re not really ours. But it is legitimate for us to use them wisely, in the service of God, to His glory.

And note what it DOESN’T justify: it doesn’t demand that we agree to the extractions of the state for its glory. It is God’s money, not the commisar’s…

Perhaps this should be added to the baptismal promises made in the Anglican prayer book. At present this is:

“Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?

I reject them.

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?

I renounce them.

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

I turn to Christ.

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

I submit to Christ.

Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?

I come to Christ.”


Perhaps we should add:

Do you renounce your possessions?

I will only serve Christ with them.

Needs work…

Verses I’ve never seen before (8)

When Gabriel tells Zechariah that he is going to be the father of John the Baptist, he says:

Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. (Lk 1)

This does nasty things to the ‘you can only become a Christian when you understand what you are doing’ line of theology that most of us are bought up on. What are we to make of the phrase ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’? Luke’s use through in the rest of Luke and Acts is as a prelude to God inspired action – a prophecy, rejoicing, or a miracle; for example in Acts 13 it precedes Paul’s blinding of Elymas, whilst later He fills the disciples and they rejoice. Certainly He SHOULD have a demonstrable impact on our lives…

Overall we are left with an unresolved issue; however it is one that we need to respect as a boundary on our simplifications of the faith; we want to have it neat and tidy, but at times God doesn’t work like that. Let’s not construct a theology that puts God in a box, because He is greater than any box we can construct!

Deception at Windsor; Michael Curry’s sermon

There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.

There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will….

Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.

A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.

I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.” Full text

So – what’s he saying here? If we love one another enough, the world will change. It’s all down to us. We don’t need God. We don’t need God’s grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph 2

It gets worse: if people are suffering it’s because they haven’t loved enough. The torturers of the dictators continued to work because their victims didn’t love enough. The victims of the death squads were victims because they didn’t love their murderers enough. It’s YOUR fault that the Manchester Arena bomber chose to murder those kids. It’s the victims of the shootings in American schools that they are being killed – because they didn’t love their murderer enough. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley weren’t shown enough love by their child victims, so they went ahead and murdered them.

This isn’t just anti-Christian rubbish, it’s a dangerous deception, it blames the victims and offers us no hope when it all goes wrong.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

We need to look for and enable God’s power in this world by His Spirit – not proclaim to the world that it doesn’t need Him. And remember that one day He will welcome us home and wipe away every tear.

Verses I’ve never seen before (7)

Tucked away at the end of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard is the phrase:

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20)

Jesus directly challenges people who react with envy when others benefit. Yet our society seems to endorse this attitude: Money ‘only makes you happy if you have more than neighbours’. Our more socialist brethren assert that their concern at others’ greater wealth lies in the rich’s ability to distort society to their benefit – and there is, no doubt, some truth in that. However for ourselves we need to confront this tendency in ourselves; whilst we are on this earth, God will give us what we need and look after us overall – how He looks after others is between them and Him. To alter Jesus’ words elsewhere: ‘If it is my will that he is rich, what is that to you? Follow me!’


Fun note for the believers in ‘literal translation’. The phrase in the Greek comes out as something like: ‘is thine eye evil because I am good?’, which makes zero sense to the modern, Western reader.