Archives For Christianity

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Wings stretch and earth darkens.

From West to East, wrists to wood
From the river of bitter vinegar, to where it merges with blood from the north.

South past open flesh,
.                        before which mockery stood.

To where pierced feet meet;
.                        on branch intersecting branch;
.                        where branch kills the vine,
.                        and the vine is laid to rest.

All within the borders
.            of an empire, and an empire’s hornets’ nest.

To where silent spaces are professionally sealed
For fear of blind and impassioned zeal.

Before the scarlet X.
That marks the scarlet spot;

To the place where men and women,
.                  embalm the unforgettable
.                  with a burial cloth.

Look to the place forged by Light;
.       to the heart of where the darkened,
.       once received their sight.

To where the sudden presence of the messenger
disturbed the guards and the still of night.

There you’ll find that death
.         and boulder was no match for Light from Uncreated Light.

There the fire-born, who stands inside this broken enclave.
turns to humanity and sets its gaze.

“From God comes His own humiliation.
This; God’s self-limitation, now become your exaltation.

This unforgettable vertical collision,
lifts the now forgiven.

Therefore, rise as you are raised.

For I tell you the truth, He is Risen!”


(©RL2017)

‘In the person of Jesus Christ, in the death of the Son of God on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. God allowed this humiliation to come upon Himself and this exaltation to be the lot of the other, humanity […] God could not be more glorious as God than in this inconceivable humiliation of Himself to humanity, and the no less inconceivable exaltation of humanity to Himself.’ 

-(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 pp.662-664)

gresham-1923-rl2016


Sources:

Machen. J.G. 1923 Christianity & Liberalism

Murrell, B. 2006 The Sun Sword Trilogy: Quest for the Sun Gem,  Random House (p.207)

Sin Shake Sin , 2015 Lunatics & Slaves from the Lunatics & Slaves

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“The Christian faith is a singing faith” – Cliff Barrows

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Notes:

The Cliff Barrows Memorial website: https://cliffbarrowsmemorial.org/

On World refugee day, four things stand out. Not one of them is the lack of Western compassion, ”Western racism/intolerance” or supposed problems caused by ”Christianity”:

1. The geographical locations from where refugees are coming
2. The ideological, cultural, social, theological and political reasons of those geographical locations.
3. Where they are seeking to go to for refuge – such as the ”Christian” West.
Number 4 on the list is a lot more complex:

It includes the refusal of Western leaders to acknowledge the real reasons for why refugees are being driven out of their homelands, even when the problems from those geographical locations begin to have a negative impact on the people in their own countries.

Surely that denial is primarily for diplomatic reasons. In other words they are not reasons based solely on the premise of tolerance, but reasons based on fear. For example: are they fears based on the fear of confrontation; the fear of “offending” those from which our oil dependent economies heavily rely upon?

This leads to questions we in the West should be asking ourselves:

Do refugees see something special about the West, that a good portion of those in the West continue to ignore, and some, even reject?
Do refugees see, what those in the West who attack the very foundations of Western society, refuse to see?
How can we best serve refugees if Western leaders refuse to acknowledge the real source of those problems? Are we not just importing the problems; doing nothing to solve the cause of those problems because the best policy is silence?
By not speaking out against the very thing that refugees are fleeing from, such as the loss of freedoms – inability to speak out (among other things) – are are we not doing a great disservice to refugees?

The answer is “yes” on all counts.

Let me be clear: refugees are not the problem, what is driving refugees from their homelands is. The West should have the courage to face this humanitarian disaster, and employ that same courage to honestly face and speak about the causes of it.

Ignoring the problem/s are bound to lead to the West importing the problem/s. All of which enters by way of naive compassion and political point scoring through an appearance of niceness, which disguises the real cause for the sake of an appalling strategy of appeasement.

Think about it. If the West fails to to be an assertive, but gracious, light in the darkness, following a costly discipleship based on the very foundations that has guided and challenged it’s moral compass for centuries, it will surely be consumed by a darkness very similar to the one that 63 million people are seeking to flee from.

Feel good hashtags fail.

Instead of posting a hashtag on social media, (which is only the equivalent of showing off to each other how anti-racist and not-phobic most of us are) on world refugee day, we should sit back, refuse to feed the feel-good hype and genuinely reflect on what’s really going on and why.

 

Refugees


Further reading:

Refugee crisis: Where are all these people coming from and why? 

Image: 2016 figures are suggested to be at 65 million people displaced. The origins haven’t shifted, although the number of refugees has increased.

 

A loving neinHidden away, near to the middle of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship[i],’ rests a three page essay on marriage called ‘Woman.’

Why Bonhoeffer named this chapter so specifically is a mystery.  My best guess here is that he was looking to the growing ease by which society has sold and objectified sex.

The chapter is an analysis of Jesus’ views on marriage, divorce and sexual immortality; or as Bonhoeffer states, ‘sexual irregularities’ (p.85). The texts referred to are Matthew 5.27-32, 1 Cor. 6:13-15 & Gal 5:24, and forms part of his larger discussion on ‘The Sermon on The Mount.’

What he means by ‘sexual irregularities’ is clarified by his reference to the Greek word πορνεια. Translated this reads as porneia, meaning, “unchastity”, unlawful sexual acts. It is linked to a metaphor for idolatry, but means sexual immorality, such as incest […et.al]. (An important side note: porneia is also linked, but does not mean adultery. This is because adultery is a separate word – μοιχεια; moicheia.)’[ii]

Although separate from the state, Christianity is in part political. The Church is never apolitical. It is this primarily because of its acknowledgement and proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. At its beginning everything is brought under the mercy and judgement in Christ’s Lordship. Theology is its starting point in a reliable critique of all ideology; whether left or right, up or down, what God has communicated through His Word stands to confront and lovingly correct human ignorance and arrogance.

As a result, the church has never been politically fashionable. When it becomes so, it is likely to no longer be a Christian Church, having surrendered to a politics of displacement, where people are ruled by human lords as if they were Lordless. It is a Church no longer speaking out from a position of the acknowledgement and proclamation of Jesus Christ as its Lord.

Underpinning the importance of Bonhoeffer’s discourse is the issue of identity. Our identity in Christ overrules and overcomes any identifying with the fallen nature. No one can be other than a Christian, if that Christian claims to follow Christ. Prefixes like ‘gay Christian, on-fire Christian, etc’ are distractions, they don’t pin well to those who bear the crucifix. Such is the cost of discipleship.

It is in the valley of God’s gracious decisiveness that a Christian’s identity is forged. Our identity is in Christ, transformed by the hand that chooses to reach for humanity, at cost. Like Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer calls those who would hear the good news to align their lives with the God who in Jesus Christ made a way for us to align with Him. This authentic allegiance is costly, still it is the imperative and indicative; it is what and who a Christian is called to, if they are to be a Christian in word, deed and attitude.

According to Bonhoeffer:

this ‘adherence to Jesus allows no free rein to desire unless it be accompanied by love. To follow Jesus means self-renunciation and absolute adherence to him, and therefore a will dominated by lust can never be allowed to do what it likes.’ (p.83)

Bonhoeffer is drawing from an, ‘all or nothing’ idealism, but he does so under the light by which God’s grace frames our finite and future existence. On the surface the influence of Kant’s ethical absolutism might be seen to be clouding Bonhoeffer’s conclusions. However, a closer look at the text shows that, although present, Kant’s ethical absolutism barely colours what Bonhoeffer is truly getting at.

Bonhoeffer moves beyond the existential towards God’s purpose for marriage.

Stating, ‘the disciple’s exclusive adherence to Christ extends even to married life. Christian marriage is marked by discipline and self-denial. Christ is the Lord even of marriage. There is of course a difference between the Christian and the bourgeois conception of marriage, but Christianity does not therefore depreciate marriage, it sanctifies it […] purity or chastity is safeguarded amongst those who follow Jesus and share his life.’ (pp. 84)

Bonhoeffer conceded that although Jesus’ commands regarding sexual sin are clear, His voice on marriage is not. They are, however, clearer than at first they might appear.

‘Instead of ‘abolishing marriage, Jesus sets it on a firmer base. Choosing to sanctify it through faith’ (p.84). ‘Jesus also approves of absolute celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. But he lays down no definite programme for his disciples, whether of celibacy or of marriage, only he delivers them from the perils of sexual irregularity inside or outside of the married life.’ (p. 85)

The point being that Jesus chooses ‘to liberate marriage from selfish, evil desire, and to consecrate it to the service of love, which is possible only in a life of discipleship.’ (p.84)

Highlighted here are the words: Christ is the Lord even of marriage…[the health and beauty of] purity or chastity is safeguarded amongst those who follow Jesus and share his life.

In the Pre-Constantinian era, the early Church tells us that pride is the enemy of grace. When it comes to Jesus Christ, any attempt to make our word His own, is an attempt to dethrone Him.  It misrepresents grace, does violence to the science of theology and hinders healthy democratic dialogue. Like recent examples on social media have shown. Particularly when the words, ‘Jesus said, “Don’t Judge,” were turned into a passive aggressive whip statement, used flippantly against Christians.

Pride and love are polar opposites. Where love is conscripted into the cause of pride, love is lost. Where pride becomes part of a person’s identity, there is no room for Christ. Where pride pushes for normalisation and blind acceptance of sexual irregularities, pride revels in disunity. Where pride wins and is then raised up to be the quintessential example of love, the beauty of true love, especially and uniquely shared between a man and a woman; a woman and a man, is overshadowed. Pride cannot be compatible with marriage because love is not compatible with pride.

The penultimate result of an allegiance to pride is that, man for woman and woman for man; both reconciled under God, are no longer seen to be uniquely reconciled to one another. It then follows that a normalisation of separation and estrangement will only encourage each to act against the other. Under the careful rule of human overlords, who search through any and all dissent for offense, the end result is a passively violent, gender segregation. One unleashed upon the world through unfettered misandry and misogyny, made law under the “feel-good” disguise of tolerance and equality. Enslaving men and women to a renewed, but subtle, hatred of each other. Forcing apart that which was long ago ordained and reconciled by God. Here the chains of an inhumane past, picked up and rattled by activists, ring loudly in our ears, ‘stick to your own kind, and never the two shall meet.’

The Church, if it is to be a Christian church, in its discipleship, must answer in two ways. First, with a firm, reasoned, loving ‘no.’ And second, with,

‘ Choose this day who you will serve […] as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
(Joshua 24:14-15, ESV)

 

Notes:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. 1937 Discipleship/The Cost of Discipleship SCM Classics

[ii] Green, J.B & McKnight, S. 1992 Dictionary of Jesus & The Gospels, IVP

Partial Shadow

March 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

Without light, nothing.

 

‘Because we only see through a glass darkly, does not mean that we can claim to see nothing at all.’
– (Reinhold Niebuhr, talking about the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, ‘Mystery and Meaning’, 1945)

 

IMG_1052


Source:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Mystery & Meaning in Discerning the Signs of the Times: Sermon Essays, Kindle Ed.

Image is mine. Photo is of the waterfront lamps along the Manning River, Taree

Camus 2It’s widely held that Albert Camus was an outsider. He was and remains a non-conformist among non-conformists.

Alongside Camus’ cautious optimism about humanity is his willingness to break with collective intellectual and political trends. He was a fierce agnostic; critical of Christianity, yet still open to the feasibility of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ[i].

Although, to be fair, given Camus’ views on this and absolute truth, alone, it is debatable as to how far this could be stretched out and represented as him being open to seeing Christ as more than just a well-intentioned, but deluded revolutionary.

As far as Camus’ understanding of and lukewarm relationship with Christianity goes, Maya Angelou’s: ‘here then is my Christian lack, If I’m struck then I’ll strike back[ii]’ certainly finds legitimate traction.

Camus’ writings are sharp. His tone often influenced by the dire circumstances of his historical context and his targets those who claim one thing, yet project another.

Born in French Algeria, Camus later became a journalist, contributing to ‘Combat’; the left-wing media arm of the French Resistance, during Nazi occupation.

Camus, today, is pertinent because of is his open critique of the “Left”, and his ability to detach himself from any claim that could suggest he had sold out to the “Right”.

According to Olivier Todd, after writing ‘The Rebel’ Camus was hammered by critics and ostracised. This included being  labelled by Jean Paul Sartre as being ‘someone who had always been vain.’[iii]

Todd adds:

‘Camus went against the grain among members of the left-wing intelligentsia. Facing a mummified admiration of revolution per se, Camus was fairly revolutionary in response to much of the current thinking in contemporary Paris.’[iv]

Jean Bethke Elshtain also noted:

‘Camus was no naïf. He knew what it meant to fight fascism. He feared what fighting fascism unleashed, namely, counter-terror in the name of an abstract Communist utopia. He disapproved of any passion for unity that saw opposition as treason. For his efforts, Camus was virtually excommunicated from the French intellectual life by Sartre and his comrades’[v]

It’s easy enough to understand why Camus, now an estranged golden-child of the “Left”, caused such an upheaval.

In 1957, near the close of an interview where Camus gave support for the counter-revolutionary movement in communist held Hungary,  Camus stated that the ‘Left was schizophrenic and needed doctoring’:

‘We must hope for a common rallying. But first our Leftist intellectuals , who have swallowed so many insults and may well have to begin doing so again, would have to undertake a critique of the reasoning’s and ideologies to which they have hitherto subscribed, which have wreaked the havoc they have seen in our most recent history. That will be the hardest thing. We must admit that today conformity is on the Left.
To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereo-typed replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws.
The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exercise of the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any rallying will be useless even harmful. None of the evils of totalitarianism (defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition) claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.’[vi]

In sum, Camus fired a flare out from within the inner sanctum of Leftist elitism. Uncovering an oppressive movement that rides on the  coattails of a utopia built on totalitarianism, enforced by appeasement and maintained by the carrot of emancipation, which only ends up enslaving people behind a false promise to deliver absolute freedom.

For the thinking Christian, Camus’ work stands as a cautious ally in the burgeoning wilderness that is the partially sedated West.

Speaking to bewildered citizens paralysed by the tug of war between those politicians, theologians and philosophers who build fortresses on either side of the ideological divide; who overlook the corruption; who ignore, for fear of being labelled intolerant, the inevitable disorder of the repression and redefinition of some traditions; who seek to play into the self-interest of some NGO’s, their supporters or anyone that might preach bipartisanship and unbias, but choose to function as propaganda units of political ideologues and the parties that promote them.

For the commonwealth of Christ (the Church), this dark, but lucid writer inadvertently issues a warning. Be careful about where your allegiance resides because ‘no one can serve two masters…Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also.’ (Jesus, Mt.6:21-24)


Source:

[i] Evident in ‘The Rebel’ and partially highlighted within his statements made at a Dominican monastery in 1948 and included in the text ‘The Unbeliever and Christians’.

[ii] Angelou, M. 1981 Maya Angelou: Poems Bantam Books

[iii] Todd, O. 2013, Afterward in Camus, A. The Rebel (Penguin Modern Classics) Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Ed.

[iv] Ibid, Loc. 4134-4137

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy On Trial Basic Books

[vi] Camus, A. 1961 Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays;Hungary: Socialism of the Gallows’, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1960 First Vintage International Edition

Image: Albert Camus, Camus Society FB page.