On unity – from David Hayward

Posted in From others..., Soundbite Philosophy with tags , on September 5, 2011 by johnfom

Not everyone wants unity. Many think conformity is more important. But that’s a superficial and uncreative kind of unity.

via Facebook.


What is the Gospel?

Posted in Musings with tags , , on August 22, 2011 by johnfom

I’ve been thinking lately on the question of ‘what is the Gospel?’ I’m thinking about it because my theology is still developing (won’t it always be?) and because I’m moving back to Australia soon, hoping to take up a position which will require that I can articulate the Gospel to youth, which means to a soft post-modern audience.

For something which is so central to Christian theology, particularly Evangelical, it is incredible that there are so many different statements of what the Gospel is.

Over at iMonk they are starting a ‘Gospel Week’ and the first post of the week is inviting discussion on the subject of definitions.

With all the definitions floating around it got me wondering, could it be that ‘the Gospel’ cannot be defined outside of a specific context? Could it be that the Gospel is so pervasive that it appears meaningless without a context and that the Gospel always needs to be ‘the Gospel to XXXX’ where XXXX is a person, culture, group, etc. I believe this would, not just allow for, but require that the Gospel speak through a multitude of expressions, including, for example, white and non-white, western and non-western, historical and novel… even verbal and non-verbal.

With this in mind, where I’m at with the Gospel at the moment is this: ‘I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

Salvation is from whatever it is that stops ‘full life’. The source of the salvation is the ‘I’ who came, i.e. Jesus (it is a partial quote of John 10:10). But, ‘full life’ is going to be defined, in part, by the individual/culture/group. Without the context, without the ‘you’ of the statement with which to relate the ‘I’, the Gospel is unintelligible and the meaning of ‘full life’ cannot be known.

Salvation is the gift of ‘full life’, given in the relationship between the ‘I’ (Jesus) and the ‘you’ (the world, the individual, the nation, the church, the family…) and becomes the ideal for the relationship (full life) between ‘I’ (self) and ‘you’ (others) from then on.

This is just me thinking aloud.  I know I’m going to have to simplify the language and clear it up somewhat, but let me know if you think I’m on the right track.

Golden Vellum*

Posted in Rants with tags , , , on August 15, 2011 by johnfom

*Vellum: calfskin, lambskin, kidskin, etc., treated for use as a writing surface.

I’ve been meaning to write this one up for a while.  I’m a student of the bible but I’m dismayed at the level of idolatry of scripture in evangelical circles.  We call the bible the word of God, but I often think that it is mistaken for THE Word of God a found in John 1:1 (i.e. Jesus).  It must be said that the bible is not Jesus.  Even to a bibliophile such as myself, the bible should be recognised as ‘words about The Word of God’.  The following uses a famous story from scripture as a base in an attempt to highlight how wrong that worship of the bible is.

The Golden Vellum (a ‘Golden Calf‘ parable).

When the people saw that Jesus was so long in coming back, they gathered and said, “Come, let us make a god we can see. As for this fellow Jesus who brought us salvation, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Athanasius answered them, “Get all of the writings, the reports of our history and bring them to me.” So all the people got their writings and brought them to Athanasius. He took what they handed him and made it into a book, a bible, fashioning it into a canon, giving it gold-gilt pages. Then they said, “Here is the word of the Lord, which brings salvation.”

When the Synod of Hippo Regius saw this, they said “Let these writings be read at all the meetings of the Church.” So, the people gathered for selected readings from the canon, giving reverence to the bible and engaging in worship with it. Afterward they sat down with themselves to eat and drink.

Then the LORD said to Jesus, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought to salvation, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from me and from care for others, and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a book. They have bowed down before it and sacrificed their loyalty to it and have said, ‘Here is your god, Christians, who brought you salvation.’”

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Jesus, “and they are a stiff-necked people. My anger burns against them, but I wish to make them a people for me.”

When Jesus approached the Church and saw the bible and the things his Church had done in its name, his anger burned.

He said to the Church leaders, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

“Do not be angry, my lord,” they answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to us, ‘Make us gods who we can see. As for this fellow Jesus who brought us salvation, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So we told them, ‘Here is a book containing all of the wisdom of God. There is no truth other than what is in here.'”

Jesus saw that the people were suppressed and that the leaders had encouraged them to try to suppress others and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the Church and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And some of them came to listen to him.

Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, God, says: ‘When you see one who is hungry, feed them. When you see someone naked, clothe them. When you see someone thirsty, give them a drink. Welcome strangers of all kinds, look after those who are sick, and befriend those who have been shunned.’” The people who were for God did as Jesus commanded, and many people came to know God. Then Jesus said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against the your own brothers and sisters, and he has blessed you this day.”

Jesus said to the Church, “You have committed a great sin. But I have made atonement for your sin.”

So Jesus spoke to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves a god of writing. But, please forgive their sin.”

The LORD replied to Jesus, “If they repent, they will be forgiven of their sin. Because of you I will not punish them.”

But the LORD took his blessing from the Church because of what they did with the bible they had made.

Evolution of a religion

Posted in Soundbite Philosophy with tags , , , , on August 9, 2011 by johnfom

‘When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business’ -Richard Halverson

life in the hoods | nakedpastor

Posted in From others... with tags , , on August 3, 2011 by johnfom

Fine observation, this. I can see myself chewing over it for a few days, if not weeks. I’m particularly interested in what answers come for his final question :


We live in a world of hoods: Childhood. Parenthood. Motherhood. Fatherhood. Brotherhood. Sisterhood. Neighborhood. Manhood. Womanhood. Falsehood. Priesthood. Sainthood. Statehood. Nationhood. Unlikelihood. Victimhood.

It is important to know that…

most people live, mostly unquestioning, within some of these hoods;

these hoods mean different things at different times in different places to different people;

these hoods all possess unspoken assumptions we call common sense;

those who challenge these unspoken assumptions are considered crazy or dangerous.

 What happens if you or someone else challenges the common sense of these hoods?

via life in the hoods | nakedpastor.


Being wrong II

Posted in Musings with tags , , on July 26, 2011 by johnfom

Last night I posted a short aphorism about being wrong. Here I want to expand on that a little bit. This is arising out of a conversation I’m in over at naked pastor: http://www.nakedpastor.com/2011/07/23/dick-in-a-box/

When someone is wrong we tend to put them into boxes based on which of the categories we think they are. Sure, we can leave them in limbo for a period while we try to figure out which one of the categories they are, but eventually we’ll think of them as one of those categories.

Are they lying? No, there doesn’t seem to be an intention to deceive there. Are they deceived? Well, possibly, but they don’t seem to have swallowed any lies, they just see a different meaning or outcome. Not being the other two they must therefore have missed out on some information that I have (dense), so I’d better tell them everything I know so they can see things my way. If that doesn’t work then its back to the first two categories depending on how much we like the person (if we like them they must be deceived, if we don’t then they are deceptive). Of course religious folk have another category to put the ‘leftovers’ in. If they are wrong, and we can’t honestly put them in the first 3 categories, they must just be sinful (depraved). There we go, all neatly categorised into what sort of wrong they are, and we can relate to them as their category befits

I’m not saying that the categories should be done away with. There are those for who the shoe undoubtedly fits. I’m saying the categories are inexhaustive and we should try to create for ourselves the possibility of relating to someone who, being wrong, is not deceived, dishonest, dense or depraved because, IMO and experience, they often aren’t any of these.

Being wrong

Posted in Soundbite Philosophy with tags , , on July 26, 2011 by johnfom

Life could be better if we could find a way to let our fellow beings be wrong without necessarily thinking of them as deceived, dishonest, dense or depraved.

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