Friday, September 03, 2010

Can I Have a Word

Praying At & Speaking Into (1)

Round Table Christians Part III

My favourite book of all time is Lord of the Rings and, apart from The Mission, my favourite film(s) would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don't think its purely escapism that lets us believe in orcs and sentient trees, there is something in us that knows there are forces out there that we do not understand. When I think of the giant redwoods and marvel at the wonder of the oceans I am engaged with nature in a primal union that lies outside of my knowledge. As a Christian I believe that there are spiritual forces abroad and that there is a battle between good and evil just as the Fellowship of the Ring were pitted against Saruman, Sauron and their evil armies. I also believe that I am called to fight with spiritual weaponse6.12 in order to defeat the works of darkness.

Unfortunately many Christians fancy themselves as Frodo or Aragorn and actively seek out Ring Wreathes to do battle with. They search the bible for weapons that they can arm themselves with, warriors they can model themselves on and strategies of war. They read the bible as if it were a book of spells with hidden meanings behind every verse. Because they are (rightly) told that the Holy Spirit will reveal all truthj16.13 they are convinced that if they dedicate themselves to its study then God will reveal truths that are hidden to everyone else. Then, once they are convinced that the bible says what they believe, you cannot question what they say because you are then questioning the word of God. Now they have a biblical framework they set to building a world view where every situation confirms their belief and any counter explanation is simply worldly.

A whole language is built around their understanding with strange phrases which give them a sense of identity and fellowship but which sound religious, cultish and wacky to everyone else. Unfortunatley, if something is repeated often enough it can worm its way into the vernacular. I find myself uttering phrases like "I'm so not going out". Maybe I want to be current or it just has a cozey feel to it. In a modern church setting where people pray from the hip they say things like "I just want pray for...". The 'just' is redundant but many people put it in unconsciously because its the way they've heard other people pray. Habit and familiarity is one thing, ignorance is something else.

I will continue this in another post but, for now, I will leave you with a quote from VOICE OF FREEDOM.

There is something mysterious and powerful about our words when we say them. It is the way that God has designed the power of the Gospel to work. He wants us to speak to our situation; yes, to turn the negative situations around through the Word of God. Paul said God ordained deliverance through the mystery of preaching. God has made every born again Christian at least to be the preacher of his own destiny. When we speak positive words to our situations, we are not talking about using empty, vain, unproductive words. The way a lawyer goes before a judge with well chosen words; the way children go before their parents with words that will invoke parental sympathy; so we are to choose and use words that will work for our deliverance.

It may not sound too wacky but the reasoning is fatally flawed and the seeds of wackiness are there as I hope to make clear.

  1. Ephesians 6.12: ...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against ... the powers of this dark world...
  2. John 16.13: But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

The Full Circle

or Why Doesn't the Church Learn Joined Up Thinking

We had a study this evening (actually it was two evenings ago) on world views. We looked at animism and eastern philosophies, western materialism, post modernism and a biblical, or Christian, world view. We also looked at what the bible describes as the world as opposed to the kingdom of God and the way the world influences our thinking. The debate about post modernism was interesting because the author of the study naively suggested that post modern thinking meant that you simply believed whatever you wanted to as opposed to the biblical view that truth was absolute. Rather uncritically, the study left little doubt that a Christian biblical world view was the one we should hold.

For me, the only thing the study proved was that the author was either ignorant or was simply using opposing views as foils to his conclusion. It would have been more productive to explore what the bible meant by the world and how God's kingdom not only stands opposed to it but powerfully exposes the subtle lies it uses to ensnare and oppress. A discussion on world views would hardly be necessary in the face of such clear and unambiguous teaching from the mouth of the Son of Man himself. It would be like observing a small child at play then asking her to explain what she was doing. Her explanation might be interesting, if she was willing to vocalise it, but it wouldn't be as illuminating as the observation. Its made me think about how we formulate our theology and explain what we believe.

So often now when I listen to a speaker I find points to criticize or argue or even dismiss and I would like to think that there's more to it than me hardening as I formulate my own theology and build arguments in defence of my opinions. I honestly believe I am becoming more open to genuine and original thought as I reflect on the wisdom, dogma and ignorance that has shaped my thinking. Its probably true that wisdom is narrow in that all that is wise has a similar ring to it so commending itself to us while ignorance is wide but has a dissonance that jars and draws attention and, in the end, repulses us. I hope I am becoming more discerning, savouring the juicy bits and putting the pips on the side of my plate. I hope also that it's because I am becoming more interested in how we comminicate through actions than through words.

So I thought not only of children who, though they may chatter endlessly, are more concerned with doing than talking but heroes of old who's legacy is far more than words of wisdom, words that would sound hollow were they not outstripped by acts of bravery, compassion and social justice. People like Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce, Gladys Ailward, Lord Shaftesbury, Dr Barnardo, Martin Luther King Jr. Even for Charles Dickens, though his legacy is the written word, it is a commentary on the social evils of his day told through story books rather than from the pulpit. These weren't heroes of exposition or philosophy, of rhetoric and apologetics, these were men and women after God's own heart who tired of talk that did not result in action.

I'm thinking that true faith is not like drawing a boundary to define what we believe so that we can safely say, "If its inside its true and if its outside its false" but more like a spiral that starts from the centre, making a path, ever expanding, self defining, building on truth rather than formulating it within some arbitray bounds. Discovering faith and the truths of God's word is not like building a jigsaw where you find all the edges and corners and work your way in, its more like building a house where you start by digging a trench, filling it back in and then working your way up. Its growing an oak from an acorn which must first be buried. You don't know what shape its going to turn out but you know it will look like an oak.

Post modernism is not like a squiggly line that ends wherever it fancies, its a circle that has rejected the straight line with its distinct beginning and end and instead asks you to seek the centre. Truth is more difficult to measure and define. Rather, you are defined by it.