Friday, June 12, 2009

80 Million!

Well, I've been taking a break from blogging while completing my Master's degree. Pheewww!

Today, I want to express my dismay at the 80 million being paid for Ronaldo. A little rant to start things off...

As a Liverpool die-hard fan, this may or may not bode well for future clashes, depending on whom Man U. buy. However, I am increasingly appalled at the gross amounts of money going to star players and spiraling ticket prices. Sure, he's good, but he isn't exactly the cure for cancer!

What sticks in the craw even worse is that such a deal takes places in a climate of dire economic straights where, for many people, they are facing the prospect of perhaps losing their jobs, homes and sanity. The warning needs to go out to the scions of football - what happened to the bankers and speculators might well happen to you.

I am disgusted by the disparity in expenditures on elite players, and the imbalance that this is creating further down the league tables. Perhaps a salary and transfer cap is a good idea?

I enjoy the beautiful game as well as other people, but I am sorry to see the game moving deeper into the business model and away from it traditional place as a sport of the people - who increasingly, can't afford it - i.e. game tickets or expensive satellite and cable fees to watch their own team in their own cities and towns.

Rant over and out!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Hi Chums!

This is a quick post to let you know that I am not using blogger very much while I'm at grad school. There will be few, if any, new posts over here for the moment.

You may catch up and see some good pictures of our doings over at facebook:

Thanks for stopping by!



Saturday, May 26, 2007

Theology is good – No really, it is!

"Sine Qua Non - That without which you have got nothing!"

Sine Qua Non as defined by Dr. Gordon Fee in a YWAM lecture

Ah! When is comes to theology - some people will say something like, "just give me the simple New Testament Gospel without anyone's interpretation". A worthy goal; but an impossibility. To articulate such a thing is an interpretative statement which is espousing a Biblical Theology, born out of one’s tradition, as interpreted by the speaker. This response, to even the mention of the word theology, often springs to mind in many people when they confuse liberal theological ideas with the wholesome and important art form of mainstream theology - which has been called the Queen of the sciences.

As soon as we start thinking about God and related questions, we are (all) engaging in theology. We do this without even realizing it. When you consider a tragedy, such a mass killing or a random death caused by some accident, you naturally ask, "how can this happen; where is God in this?" This is the issue of Theodicy, or how we explain the great problem of evil. We all ask these kinds of questions – it is part of being human, and there are many struggles to surmount as well as issues to ponder.

So the question I have is, not whether we need theology, but rather, whether what we have is a good theology. Now a good theology, as I believe firmly it is possible to construct, entails using good sources and recognizing our own perspective or views (and bias), which necessarily impacts the way we are approaching our theology. This, of course, is a value statement in itself; to say that there is a good theology or several good theologies, we are presupposing there are bad ones - and I also believe there most definitely are. Maybe a topic for another post?

However, even if we have a good theology, our fictional questioner might follow up with, "isn't this just another theory or system unrelated to the world and the day to day issues, like dirty laundry, car problems, and dragging devotions?" Well, actually, as soon as one goes from thinking to acting on our beliefs, which is also impossible to avoid, we are doing theology; applying that theology whenever we pray, serve or contemplate an issue of (great) meaning. Furthermore, what we believe directly relates to what we do. The so-called, "lex credendi, lex orandi - The way that you believe related to the way that you pray", and vice versa. Or, more fully, “Legem credendi statuit lex orandi.” From the Latin, translated literally it means “the rule of prayer determines the rule of faith.” In other words, “the way we pray, shows what we believe – and vice versa.” []

I appreciate this quote from David Ford, a senior Theologian at Cambridge, outlining a model for doing theology:

The wisdom tradition represents the self-critical side of the Hebrew scriptures. It’s thus a very good model for what theology should be doing: paying close attention to tradition while thinking through the difficult and dark questions. Wisdom demands an integration of rigorous thought with imagination and also practical concerns -- how things actually work out in the living of life. Part of its fruitfulness for me has been that it acts as a check on theology’s being too doctrine-centered, and not taking account of the imaginative and the practical.” []

Furthermore, I recall hearing a Bishop (I forget the name) posit that “every theology brings with it a psychology”. You will observe that our starting point or presuppositions, especially our experience, and concomitant personal disposition, have an irrevocable influence on the system of theology we follow and embrace. The most shocking examples of this correlation are the Cool-aid calamity of the Peoples Temple and Jim Jones, and the Whacko at Waco; the deluded messiah, David Koresh, who led more innocent people to a fiery end.

Once, my wife and I took a list of several verses from the Bible and gave them to several different clusters of people in a home group, and asked them to forget other verses, and to construct a theology and spiritual style of living from the verse they were given. The results were striking and instructive as to how this thinking and applying comes so easily to us. For example, the "Armour of God" crowd were militant and overly concerned with fighting the devil in the approach they developed; the “Study to Show Yourself Approved” gang were very precise and keen on teaching all the time to anyone at any stage or age, while the "Sheep of the Good Shepherd" were a restful and cozy bunch. You can imagine what they all came up with. This is a good argument that we need something of a systematic approach to studying the Bible and theology in general, so that we got a fuller picture, and avoid proof-texting our favourite bits!

It is almost hilarious when right-thinking adults will object to Christian ideas, or any others, by saying, “well, you might think such-and-such, but here is what I believe” though they may have no tangible evidence or apparent reasoning for the view being proffered in response, or if there is, it’s usually some half-baked version of the latest crazy philosophy being re-hashed in the media, as though anyone should trust them to serve up the best in scholarship or version of truth. Wild theories might get you published or lionized on the TV, but that is no proof of quality. I believe that the so-called, Jesus Seminar, were an example of the worst in this kind of enterprise - this is an example of theology which upsets people unduly and gives theologians a bad name. Don’t get me started on the “lost” books of the bible circus – suddenly the Gnostics are cool again - groan!

So what is your theology? How to you find answers to the ultimate questions about God. Do you ever stop to think why you believe the way you do? What separates a good theology from merely my opinions?



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Below is a good post about the awful shooting of yesterday. It is a great response and sums things up rather well.

This situation is just so sad and one hopes grace will abound even more – God always seems to handle things better than we ever can – another good reason to walk with Him, or hang on to Him when all else fails.

Grace and peace to you, and especially to the VT Hokies


How Do We Respond to the Tragedy at Virginia Tech?

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How do we respond to the unbearably tragic crisis at Virginia Tech? There are no simple answers. Our first responses are visceral: shock, horror, sadness, fear, grief. Thank God we aren’t immune to evil in such a way that we no longer feel such revulsion and pain.

As a person of faith, part of me wants to run to God to demand an accounting for such evil. There is a place for this conversation, to be sure, but I believe we should begin by praying for those whose lives have been ripped to shreds by this tragedy. I’m thinking mostly of families and friends of the dead. We must also pray for the healing of the wounded, for all who are connnected to Virginia Tech.

Though I’m not surprised, I’m grieved once again by the tendency of some to use such a crisis for personal or political advantage. Predictably, both sides of the gun lobby were quickly using this tragedy to argue for or against gun ownership. This is an important debate, to be sure, and one we must have as a nation. But, in my opinion, now is not the time for punditry, but for prayer.

There is a place, I think, for thoughtful and sensitive reflection on the implications of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Newsweek’s “On Faith” website []

asks its contributors: “How does your faith tradition explain (and respond to) senseless tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings?” As usual, there are a variety of answers from a wide range of religious (and non-religious) perspectives. I have found the following submissions to be particularly wise:

“God With Us, Grieving,” by N. T. Wright;

“God of Hope and Healing” by Chuck Colson;

“Facing the Reality of Evil” by Albert Mohler, Jr.,

“God Cares. God Loves. We Choose” by Bishop Desmond Tutu

Here’s my prayer for today:

God of love and justice, our hearts are stunned today by the horrifying events at Virginia Tech. We struggle even to know how to pray. Yet we ask You, above all, to let Your gracious presence be known to all who suffer this day, especially the families and friends of those who have died. Grant them Your peace that passes all understanding.

Help us, dear Lord, to learn what we must learn from this crisis. Give us hearts open to You. Keep us from using the pain of others to manipulate or callously advance our personal agendas. Help us to listen to each other, and most of all to You.

Thank You for being a God who is not watching us from a distance. Thank You for entering into the pain and sorrow of this broken world. Thank You for being present with us when we suffer. Thank You for giving us hope when all seems hopeless, through Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pictorial Theology

"On a late October night in 1778, Captain John Ledyard of Connecticut arrived with fear and trembling on the Aleutian island of Unalaska, borne from his ship face down in a fragile skin canoe by natives whose language he did not understand. He was the adventuresome American scout for Captain John Cook's third and last voyage of discovery in the Pacific, and he wrote in his diary of his great "joy and surprise" that he was welcomed on shore by hospitable Christians, both Russian and native. Ledyard noted in his diary that they fed him well and did not retire immediately thereafter as he did but rather "said prayers after the manner of the Greek Church.... I could not but observe with what particular satisfaction the Indians performed their devoirs to God . . . and with what pleasure they went through the multitude of ceremonies attendant on that sort of worship." - James H. Billington []

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the glorious discipline and art of theology was more engaging than most people generally find it? This would be a thing to certainly elicit excitement amongst those who love Christian theology. Yet, how many times, (if at all) have you endeavoured to read a tome of theology or church history, popular or otherwise, and began to quickly feel your eyelids drooping?

As the above quote illustrates, we don’t always need words to see the relevance of faith. Surely there is a need, and I dare say, various potential avenues open, which might be suggested for making theology come alive to the reader.

Now I am all for clear, eloquent language which accurately and elegantly carves out the beautiful lines of redemption and the plan of God; however, this is all too rare, if we are completely honest. Most theology is written for other academics. Not that such works should not be produced, but perhaps, we might want to consider developing a theological vocabulary of more that mere words.

Furthermore, it is inevitable that we shall fall short of capturing the glories of heaven and salvation's grace, when all we have to work with in these attempts is the English language - or German, for that matter. But, as the cliché goes, a picture paints a thousand words.

I posit, that we might think about introducing more metaphors and allegories, and other forms of illustration into our theologizing. Perhaps this suggestion will cause some to halt, and accused me of somehow, blurring or crossing the disciplines in an illegitimate way, but just as Michelangelo captured something of the magnificence of the renaissance conception of humankind in cold, hard marble; similarly, should we not also strive to spread out the wondrous rays of grace and truth with the best means at our disposal, not merely with our words. Perhaps we are so trapped in the Modern that we are unwittingly turning into granite and stone ourselves – at least from the neck down.

There is, of course, the case of the great stained glass windows in so many cathedrals, with sunbeams streaming down over centuries gone by for the literate and illiterate alike; not to mention the works of classical artists, musicians, poets, and the icons of the Eastern church, whose works swell the coffers of church and culture in terms of art and beauty. Christ Himself was engaged in the greatest mission of all, and what did He do? He drew pictures with words, and ultimately, put Himself on display in the most hideous and breathtaking way, on Golgotha's lonely and bleak hillock. There is some inspiration for us to emulate; which, though never certain, might lead to a change of heart and a moment of contrition, to forgiveness, or simply, a small kindness and a careful thought, as might be called for.

I like to imagine that God wrote the bible - inspired it, actually. In this effort, He used lots of stories and pictures to spell out for us His great mission and heartbeat. Everywhere we find trees, rivers, whacky family lines, stirring souls and wretches, dramatic scenes, exploits, tragedy, victory, and sin, most bitter. This is hardly typical of systematic theology the way we like to go about it. Perhaps this is another reason why the bible remains the biggest selling book of all time, year after year. Name one theologian who has even come close? Though we could call to mind some great and important work, there are too few who look for these and can appreciate them.

However, I am not in favour of dumbing down theology - but rather, of lifting it up, but way of elaboration, and in celebration of ideas, embroidering our discussions with many powerful images which resound and repeat in one's imagination, with the earnest hope of touching the soul and motivating one's life.

Spinoza had his theatre of the mind, and with the bible, God has His theatre of the heart and Spirit. Let us emulate the Creators genius and gird ourselves up to the task of picturing for others those great mysteries we have received and pondered in library halls and cosy studies, and gladly share them with as much finesse and artistry as we can.

As the dictionary has it, herewith, I close this post:

Word: Pictorial, 5 of 7 definitions

Main Entry: illustrative

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: explanatory

Synonyms: allegorical, clarifying, comparative, corroborative, delineative, descriptive, diagrammatic, emblematic, exemplifying, explicatory, expository, figurative, graphic, iconographic, illuminative, illustrational, illustratory, imagistic, imitative, indicative, interpretive, metaphoric, pictorial, pictoric, representative, revealing, sample, specifying, symbolic, typical

[Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1) Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC.]


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Relevance of the Holy Trinity.

Contrary to some perceptions, the Trinity is not some irrelevance or a concoction of doddery old bishops in the third century. I maintain that the Trinity is at the very heart of the Christian faith. The Trinity comprises the inner essence of God, and forms the basis for all His works, and gives rise to the beauty in creation; down to the level of all goodness, wherever it may be found.

Before there was even a little bang, before even an atom of matter, or a ray of light, there was the sublime, absolutely perfect, God-head - of grace, truth, love and tranquility. Equal in power and majesty, yet perfect in humility, unity and diversity – at once giving and fully able to receive. This is the greatest love of all time. Not that love is God, but God most definitely is love. When we are being loving, we are most like God.

Would that we could emulate the glorious magnanimity and harmony that is so intrinsic to the God-in-three. God as Trinity, gives love, sends the Son, empowers by the Spirit, is the Father of consolation and good shepherd to us all.

Some might ask, “how can this be? How can God be three, and yet one?” Yet such is the testimony of the Bible, implicit in creation, though hidden from overt comprehension; and it is the testimony of the Eastern and Western Church down the ages, treasured from earliest times. Even the name of God is plural in Hebrew. God is one, and God is three. We cannot understand this mystery. We can only stand in awe. Better, yet – kneel in adoration. But we do neither very easily.

Have you ever noticed the thrice-repeated phrase in the Bible – “Holy, Holy, Holy”? I do not think that it is without significance that we find instances of three “Holy’s” – i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here, we have unity, selflessness, diversity and love personified to a superlative degree, and moreover, worshipped as the One true God.

Glory be to the Father and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Behold, The Man

Part 2.

I have been reflecting on the inablilty of humans to apprehend the revelation of God, in its various forms.

One might bring up the issue of the incarnation (God, enfleshed in Christ) as a key to the clearing up of these kinds of questions, (see earlier post) at least in some ways; but I think that the quest for the historical Jesus, though horribly mangled by those such as the Jesus Seminar, proves that these questions persist.

In some ways, the search for God is a visceral process which most of humanity is compelled to engage with/in. I wonder whether God designed this whole reality. I mean; He could certainly have beamed down and made a dramatic appearance even greater than the historical first coming. However, we are left to fumble about in faith with the occasional ray of light and the prod of the Spirit.

The late Stanley Grenz, in the introduction to his “Theology for the Community of God” speaks about the interpretive motifs’ that theologians have used to frame their systems of ordering doctrine. These motifs’ include things such as, justification by faith, the Glory of God, Scripture; and of course, much has been made of the concept of the Kingdom of God.

As I am considering the above issue of our inability to capture a complete vision of God, who by definition is above and beyond, I believe that the premiere interpretive framework for understanding God is, indeed, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, interpretive motif’s function as clues or windows onto the wider question of who God is and what He is about.

Paul writes that “in Christ are the keys to all wisdom and knowledge”. Quite a concept! Actually, I left out one word from Col 2:3; “hidden”. If he is right, then I believe that a follow up question is warranted, “what do you think of Christ”? “What is hidden there, and how do we approach truth in Him”?

Here again, we have shifted our gaze from the immutable, inscrutable God, to the communicable or somewhat more tangible person of Christ. I would encourage you to take up the spiritual shovel and start digging.

The greatness or benefit of Christianity does not consist in how well we might follow Christ and the teachings of scripture, not in our traditions, or along the arc of historical events in Christendom, but absolutely in the greatness of Jesus Christ. As Pilate said, unwittingly:” behold, The man”!