Love Your Enemies

Palestinian_refugees_1948Palestinian Christian Bible Scholar, Yohanna Katanacho, spoke at Catalyst Live, Reading, UK 2013.

Today is the 1948 anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe).

Loving enemies is still the best way to make friends.  Pray for Israelis and the Palestinians.

Source: Love Your Enemies

Yohanna Katanacho Catalyst Live Reading 2013 BMS

Where He is, there I shall also be!

Where He is, there I shall also be!

Thoughts of unworthiness can come and go.  Sometimes they stay and hover in our mind as though they are the things that matter most, that they are the truth to us being us, or me being me.  We lie to ourselves, thinking that this must be what God really thinks about us!  

Well, I for one am not immune to such thoughts.  I know, as a Christian that I deserve death and hell.  I know I do.  My own sinful nature tells me, my sins acted out tell me, my sins in thought, word and deed.

But.

I am a Christian.  I follow a saving and risen Jesus.  He has defeated sin and death and He is Lord.  I walk by faith and I live in grace.  Not arrogantly, but utterly dependently.  Not slothfully, but watchfully.  Not as if I have achieved anything for myself, but because Jesus has achieved everything for me that I could never achieve.

It’s all grace.  It’s all Christ Jesus.

The following was said by that tortured soul, the Reformer Martin Luther.  He had depressive tendencies, he had dark thoughts, and he knew he was a sinner, yet he said this…..

 

“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, then tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know one who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf, his name is Jesus, the Son of God, and where he is, there I shall also be!”

So of course we deserve death and hell.  That’s why Jesus came to rescue the world, to save it.  Full of sinners as it is, people like you and me.  Jesus ensures we always get what we don’t deserve.  This is the bold confidence we have.

Because of Jesus.  Where He is, there I shall also be!

At the intersection between scones, nudity and theology…

And then, as we were serving tea and scones in the dining room, my brother David, in a heavenly voice, said without recourse to any current or prior conversation:

“I think that the problem with nudity, the reason it seems offensive, is not so much the sight of genitals (which are hardly what you’d call offensive), but because clothes help to designate our place in society.

Public nudity is in this sense highly a/anti-social, kind of like a denial of normal social codes because there is no place for it except in the brief intermediary space of the changing room. It isn’t the imagined threat of another’s sexuality that offends, but their taking up of a position outside of considerations of status or social context.

We need to be able to place people, and clothes go a long way to helping with that. Since we rely on social codes all the time to function, someone stepping outside of them is equivalent to having two fingers stuck up at the bulk of humanity. Personally, I don’t care if people want to go around naked, and I actually like swimming nude, but doing it in public seems a pointless and immature thing to insist upon, like growing ridiculously long fingernails or not washing – you’re free to do it, but what kind of freedom is that?

Also, just to add a theological note on this (which, naturally is by far the most offensive thing anyone can possibly do!), the animal skin clothing that God made for Adam and Eve in the bible was not particularly about making sure we covered our naughty bits up to satisfy a strangely schizoid deity’s need for modesty. It was meant to be read allegorically as a sign that our attempts to hide our shame (a consequence of the knowledge of good and evil) are inadequate, and so God replaced our fig leaves with something he provided for us. The twist in the story is that, in Christ, he is himself the lamb-skin that protects us.

But anyway…”

But anyway indeed.  More tea?

How To Argue About Politics

The Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday called for a General Election on June 8th (despite saying she would do no such thing).  We will doubtless hear political discourse, expert or otherwise, reach for new levels of over-blown rhetoric, unattainable promises and outlandish threats that go beyond even apocalyptio-dystopio proportions.

Politics is necessary and sometimes interesting, but of late it is rather like trying to fit the glass shoe on the feet of one of the Ugly Sisters….even if it fits, it’ll be the wrong foot!

Having said that, arguing and getting your point of view across, is a dying art in a world of fake news, opinionated blatherers and general social media swampery.  In our current political system, we often have soundbites and slogans; character assassinations; ridicule and dismissive gesturing.  Who really wants to be the winner in all this?  Afterall, even if the Ugly Sister did manage to squeeze into the tiny glass shoes of another….she would still be ugly!!!

I am reading through Gary Gutting’s book What Philosophy Can Do, and right from page one, he outlines the sheer practical force of philosophy as it relates to many areas of life.  He starts with politics, hence the opening quote below, but he goes on to tackle Science, Capitalism, Education, Art, Religion, Economics and Agnosticism. 

I hope the quote below helps others to think more clearly about what we say and how we say it; what we know and what we don’t know; for example, there’s a world of difference between “freedom of thought” and “correctness of thought”.

20170419_092639“Taking examples from recent political debates, this chapter explains and illustrates important logical principles and distinctions needed for effective argumentation.  

We first distinguish between real and bogus arguments and then discuss and illustrate the Principle of Charity, which shows how fairness to opponents can make arguments more compelling.

Next, we examine the distinction between deductive and inductive arguments, and, regarding inductive arguments, explore the essential but often neglected Principle of Relevant Evidence.

The following section introduces the notion of convictions (and the related notions of pictures).  Both concepts will have major roles in later chapters.  Reflection on the part convictions play in arguments will lead to an important distinction between what is logical and what is rational.

Two further sections explore arguments between people who are equally competant on a given topic (epistemic peers), leading to a distinction between freedom of thought and correctness of thought, and an analysis of the logic of disagreement.

Finally, we consider the value of arguments that fail to convince anyone else, formulating a Principle of Self-Understanding.”

pg.1 (all italics original).

Getting Stupid:  Confessions of a (former) atheist Philosopher of Religion

Getting Stupid: Confessions of a (former) atheist Philosopher of Religion

“I have already noted in passing that everything goes wrong without God.  This is true even of the good things he has given us such as our minds.  One of the good things I’ve been given is a stronger than average mind.  I don’t make the observation to boast.  Human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways.  The problem is that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong.  When some people flee from God, they rob and kill.  When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of (multiple-partner) sex.  When I fled from God I didn’t do any of these things.  My way of fleeing was to get stupid.  Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to achieve.  God keeps them in His arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all.  That is how I ended up doing a doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and evil and that we aren’t responsible for what we do.  I remember now that I even taught these things to students.  Now that’s sin. 

It was also agony.  You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself – well, if you’re like I was, maybe you can, what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense.  St Paul said that the knowledge of God’s law is written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.  The way natural-law thinkers put this, is to say that they constitute the deep structure of our minds.  That means that so long as we have minds, we can’t not know them.  I was unusually determined not to know them, therefore I had to destroy my mind.  I resisted the temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the temptation to neglect good.  For instance, I loved my wife and children, but I was determined to regard this love as merely subjective preference with really no objective value.  Think what this did to my very capacity to love them.  After all, love is a commitment to the will of the true good of another person, and how can one be committed to the true good of another person if he denies the reality of good, denies the reality of persons and denies that his commitments are in his control?

Continue reading

Reduced Laughter: A Review

Reduced Laughter by Revd Dr Helen Paynter.

A Review by Richard Matcham

91223

 

Chapter 1 – Introduction

My title:  In Defense of the Comedic

Using Private Eye as a great introductory example, one thing is sure – humanity loves humour, and we love humour that subverts the way things are, the high-and-mighty, etc.  The Bible hasn’t had good fare in recent millennia regarding all things funny.  The Bible is a serious book, and is found to be read (when it is read at all), to be read by serious people.

 

Our Western rationalism in general, and 19th century German scholarship (p.5) in particular, riding on the back of Plato’s suspicion that humour is malicious; and Aristotle’s warning that while humour is necessary, it should be ‘kept in check’, is missing the point that humour can be ‘a route to truth’ (p.3).

 

On the contrary, humour is not the opposite of sadness or seriousness, a useful observation of what de Sousa calls a ‘category error’ (p.4).  Thank God!  I have come to realise that my own use of humour is directly related to my serious side.  They are two sides of the same coin.

 

All this is carried over into our Bible reading.  Our culture may ‘Think Bike – Think Safety’ but we certainly do not train ourselves or our churches to ‘Think Bible – Think Humour,’ and I for one would love to try.   Admittedly, this is not easy – the Bible is a very serious book(s), with lots of weighty, eternal, salvific images, multi-genre & theological categories, stories and truth claims.  Thus, as a default setting, we ‘are more likely to under diagnose humour than over-diagnose it’ (p.6), and this means we will likely miss it altogether.

 

A taster-example is offered via the Naboth narrative (1 Kings 21), and how the Hebrew word describing the sulky and vexed Ahab is related to the Deuteronomic stubborn and rebellious son (21:18-19).  Here, the son is the one killed, whilst in Kings, it is Ahab who kills.  ‘This subtle, darkly humorous, allusion will only be apparent to the attentive reader or listener’ (p.8).  I wish I’d been more attentive in my reading!

Helen then offers some ‘ground rules’ for textual interpretation.  The text itself assumes a ‘literary or aural competence’ (p.8), and this requires competent hard work.  Highlighting wordplays and ‘hidden polemics’, the careful reader is able to see the ‘subversive, and deliberate partial concealment’ (p.10) of the narrative, using the ‘useful guidelines’ for the ‘methodological criteria’ outlined by Yairah Amit on page 9.

 

Finally, Helen’s hermeneutical approach leans heavily on the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, someone who refers to seriocomic literature as ‘playful, irreverent, multi-voiced, subversive and outrageous’ (p.11).  I have already guessed in my own reading that the Bible is all of these things, but what I hadn’t reckoned with, is that it is more deliberately so, and far deeper than I gave credit.

Continue reading

Extreme Metaphor: Salt and Dung

Extreme Metaphor: Salt and Dung

Luke 14:34-35

 

Salt and Vinegar;             Sea salt;                     Salted peanuts;

Salt and pepper;              Bath salt;                   Salted babies;

Ready salted;                    Table salt;                 Salted Pringles;

Salt tablets;                        Salted slugs;             Salted dung;

Saltless salt.                       Salted speech;         Road salt;

 

Salt is an amazing thing.  Very important to the human body.

We live in a high-salt culture which is not so good for us.

 

Matthew 5 –  “You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world.”

This is about shining out and spreading out.

The rest of the Sermon on the Mount explains what that looks like.

 

We know that salt serves different functions:  It preserves and flavours.

(Personally, I think my Cambodian pepper is better than salt):

(“You are the pepper of the earth!”)

So we know Jesus is calling us to flavour and light up a decaying and dark world.

Note that Jesus never challenges us to be these things, he just says we are.

  Continue reading