Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Strange Days

"The State of affairs in which ordinary people can discover the supernatural only by abstruse reasoning is recent and, by historical standards, abnormal.
In the conditions produced by the last century or so, plain men are expected to bear the burden - we must get to the truth or go without it....

If we are ready to climb and struggle, as a society, to this height, all can be well, but a state where we neither gain wisdom nor venture to find it for ourselves is fatal.
On or back we must go; to stay here is death"

C S Lewis - Miracles.

I finally had the opportunity this week to view the Ben Stein investigation into the field of Intelligent Design and contemporary science. I watched Expelled with a friend who is open to exploring such issues, and he and I then discussed at length the issues - theological, scientific, philosophical and social - raised by the material the documentary covered.
In a week where two new books on the matter have been published - Atheist Bradley Norton's 'Seeking God in Science', which argues I D does have something to say that needs to be heard, and Stephen Meyer's 'Signature in the Cell' - I was strongly reminded of C S Lewis piece on how the 'myth' of Darwinism (that we are 'naturally' improving, heading for a better world) is keenly in need of a death and burial. The tyranny of that line of thought has often been used to empower the most darkest of chapters in our times.

What was equally fascinating from the viewing was to reflect on just how philosophically empty the Darwinian approach to existence really is. It does not actually tell us how or why we are here,
it makes life inherently one-dimensional and ultimately purposeless, and it clearly is merely a caretaker in situ until a far more robust and comprehensive understanding can take up residence.

The good side of the present situation is that, in spite of various trip-wires, the debate is beginning to filter into the public realm, allowing people, like my friend and I, to begin to weigh up the present situation. The concern, as Lewis described it so well, is that the majority of people in our times are still outside of such inquiry and debate, and that cannot be good either for them or our times.

The window allows us to view a splendor beyond - a marvel that will certainly cause many to be astonished at what discoveries are currently being made. The trail of our times is the drone of dicta, popularized in so many ways, which tells our generation that the window does not exist.

May the one who fearfully and wonderfully made all things, allow the light to topple such darkness.

Book Links:
Bradley Norton:
Stephen Meyer:

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Weathering the Storm?

Why do I feel like a ship on the Ocean, controlled by winds that I cannot see, bound by chains, lashed to a yard-arm, all I want is to be free

From a poem by me.

Ever feel overwhelmed by life?
Recall that moment towards the end of the movie, Deep Impact, when Jenny Lerner and her father await certain death as an enormous tidal wave rushes ashore - there are aspects of life that can almost certainly assail us in that fashion. Fear and uncertainty have certainly encroached in new and unexpected ways as I've grown older, causing me to often be troubled about issues that seemed much more straightforward in youth. As a result, it can often feel that I'm standing on a similar beach before an inescapable wave - the floods of uncertainty and death - held fast in a quicksand of anxiety.

There appears no relief in the natural. When much of contemporary theology encourages me to accommodate a theistic evolutionary approach to our origins, or to re-define my understanding of human sexuality to see the biblical material is entirely cultural and therefore dead in the modern context, what am I to make of the claims, the authority of scripture, on such matters? Are they merely empty sets to our lives, to the issues of our age, or are they in fact living words that we must approach and consider with care?

If the entire goal of the drama we term history is to marry those two key themes of essential truth - Creation and Redemption - then can we really dislocate the Biblical material on such issues from the story of mankind or the condition of ourselves? Do we gain anything by doing so, and equally important, what do we loose?

I ask these questions because it seems to me that unless we are indeed 'held' by the God who reveals Himself in these revelatory works, we are indeed horribly adrift and without any true hope of refuge.

Where does the church go from here?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Deadly Years

"Now the Spirit instructs us that in the later times some will depart from faith,
devoting themselves to deceits - the very teaching of darkness.
Liars will inspire such to seek to determine who can marry whom,
forbidding not only such union, but also the eating of foods which have been clearly
given by God to be received with joy.
Remember that every good thing is created and given by God to be received in this fashion,
and should not be renounced or rejected". Paul to Timothy.

Genuine faith, Luther once noted, can be a pretty unsettling thing.

Try and imagine what it must have been like for Peter, for example, that morning before he met
Cornelius, when he was presented with a requirement to partake of food to eat which, to his manner of thinking was 'unclean'. It must of shaken him deeply, when God not only required this of Him, but sought to teach him three times that what God makes clean can no longer be excluded.

Peter, like so many of us, could operate quite safely in a sphere where piety and devotion, duty and dedication, are all neatly defined by a 'belief' which compartmentalizes the sacred and the secular, but God is far, far too near for such 'neatness'. He is the Lord who rescues the miserably lost, the entirely ungodly. He comes amongst us, into the very dirt of this sin-sick place, and redeems and restores all that we have muddied by our externalizing of sanctity - our 'fig leaf' pretensions of religion. He takes the life of our world, so sickened by sin, and by giving Himself, changes the very common into the framework of eternity, the theater of His Kingdom.

Paul's warning, then, to Timothy, is so pertinent.
Ungodly religion is marked by an ethos which radically denies the sovereignty of God in what He has redeemed. By talking up our piety, our rules, our impetuous attempts at self-righteousness, it lacerates and murders the banqueting table of grace, furnished by our Great God and Saviour.

Redemption takes us beyond the fallen practices which has marked our race since our death in Eden - it calls us to return to life in the giver of all that is good.
Secularism and Legalism simply cannot hold or contain the depth or richness of the gift He gives to each of us - no apparatus of our invention can come close to supplying true confidence in His great and precious promises - it can only continue to deform us into creatures which spurn the beauty of grace.

Peter, (no doubt like us), spent a lifetime learning just how amazing God's work is, both with him and in the world. Are we learning those lessons, or are we buried in pretensions that effectively blind us to that good work, burying our lives beneath a lie of 'godliness'?

Leaving the comfort of our own 'gods' to journey to new lands...
it's a disturbing call.