Posts Tagged ‘Theology Doctrine Philosophy’

Don’t worry it’s not the end of the world….

Friday, December 21st, 2012

In my darker moments folk used to say to me: ‘Don’t worry it’s not the end of the world’, and I’d feel a pang of disappointment.

Thoughts of the end of the world seem to be innate in the human psyche and Christians are no exception.

I used to obsess on eschatological theories, which can take you down some very strange paths indeed. Nowadays I’m with the Pope:

On the contrary, he [Jesus] wants us to stop his disciples of every epoch from being curious over dates, forecasts, and wants to give them the key to…the right road to walk today and tomorrow to enter into the eternal life.”

We know the first Century Christians had an expectation of the return of Christ within their lifetimes, and the consequential adjustments they had to make, and the disappointments they had to overcome, as the decades rolled by and that generation died out. Peter had to deal with just this problem:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

And in the face of this Peter exhorts:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

It seems hard for some Christians to heed the directions of Christ when he said that nobody knows the hour or the day of his return. We saw all of this played out very publicly with Harold Camping last year, a proponent of the ‘Rapture’, or as I disparagingly term it: ‘raptural science or raptureology’.

But Camping is by no means alone. The Left Behind series which reportedly sold 70 million copies was little more than an exercise in the same phenomena. There will always be a market for the end of the world. I think it taps in to ultimate psychological escapism, and reveals many folk, even in the opulent parts of the world, are deeply unhappy and unfulfilled with their lot and the way things are.

The BBC has an interesting article today looking at end-of-the-world cults and how they cope when the prophecy fails:

For those who paid heed to their dire warnings, learning that life will in fact carry on as normal might be expected to be a deeply traumatic experience.

Surprisingly, however, groups which predict the end of the world have quite a good record of carrying on after the world is supposed to have ended, says Lorne Dawson, an expert in the sociology of religion at the University of Waterloo.

“The vast majority seem to shrug off the failure of prophecy fairly well,” he says.

Of 75 groups identified by Dawson which predicted the apocalypse, all but six remained intact after catastrophe failed to materialise.

Indeed, many have gone on to flourish. Jehovah’s Witnesses are viewed as having predicted some form of end several times and yet still have more than seven million followers.

The Seventh Day Adventists, who have an estimated 17 million members, grew out of the Millerites, whose failed apocalyptic forecast in 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.

The seminal study into this phenomenon came in the 1956 text When Prophecy Fails, in which psychologist Leon Festinger recounted how he and his students infiltrated a group who believed the world was about to end with members being rescued by a flying saucer.

When both the apocalypse and the UFO failed to materialise, Festinger found, the leader declared that the small circle of believers had “spread so much light” that God had spared the planet. Her followers responded by proselytising the good news among non-believers in what Festinger saw as a classic case of cognitive dissonance.

Some years ago I was told of Jehovah’s Witnesses who sold everything they had in the 70′s in readiness for the end. When it didn’t happen and many left the organisation, this was rationalised by announcing God was ridding himself of the dead wood from within the ranks.

There always seems to be a way around a failed prophecy, and there always will be.

Of course, as Christians we believe this ‘age’ will come to a conclusion with the return of Christ, and although there is something of a spur in believing in his imminent return; looking for signs and portents and trying to ‘crack the code’ of the Bible, and especially of the apocalyptic elements, is nothing more than a distraction from the task at hand; namely, the growth of the Kingdom not of this world.

I must conclude at this point and can find no more fitting way than with Cranmer’s eloquent words today:

The signs of salvation may induce madness, for the world is progressing to its appointed end. But the fascination with cultic zealotry and fringe crackpottiness draw a veil over the Judaeo-Christian revelation of the relationship between suffering and hope, sin and forgiveness, evil and love. Only when we look at our hum,an suffering in cosmic terms, as part of a universal order of creation and destruction, is catastrophe dignified and our life endowed with meaning, and hence made bearable.

The end will come when it comes, and no man can know the day or the hour. We await a great bang, but it is more likely to be a whimper. For God did not come in a blaze of conquering glory: He was born as a baby and laid in a manger. God became man, and dwelt among us. And therein lies the revelation and eschatological hope of our salvation: therein is our revolution of love, joy, peace and patience.

A few good links

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

UK Human Rights Blog - High Court rejects Humanist Association’s challenge to faith school proposals in Richmond

Law and Religion UK - Charitable status, public benefit and “closed” congregations: an update on Preston Down

Protect the Pope - French government orders surveillance of Catholic pro-marriage groups it suspects of ‘religious pathology’

Pink News - UK: Primary school writes to parents to explain that their child’s teacher will be changing gender

Francis Sedgemore - RIP Intellectual Property UK

Islamophobia Watch – Advertising Islamophobia hits London railways

Martin Webber’s Blog - Blogging: An essential research engagement and dissemination tool?

Accepting Abundance - Eyna, Are You More Than A Body?

No more wriggling out of writing - On the darker side of the sparkle

A Christian Response To #Newtown

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

I was so appalled with some of the ‘Christian’ responses to the US school massacre that I posted in anger ‘Using tragedies opportunistically to spout bullshit and then went offline for a few days.

Returning today, my feeds continue to be full of this tragedy, but what is heartening, is many of the articles are a kickback against the heartless nonsense we first heard in response to this.

Top of the pile of kickbacks is a superb exchange between Bibliobloggers:

Christian Salafia of Homebrewed Theology
Craig Falvo of Theonerd,
Joel Watts of Unsettled Christianity,
Chris Tiedeman of Notes from the Pastor’s Office

Listening to this conversation is such a tonic having read such poisonous rubbish; it’s calm, reflective, measured……well I think so anyway.

Have a listen and see what you think:

A few good links

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

The Biblical World - Keep the Chi in Xmas

Opinionated Vicar - Mental Health double standards – new findings

Turning the Page - 14 Reasons why Angels would make terrible Mental Health Workers

Law and Religion UK - Church responds to Assisted Dying Bill Consultation

Rachel held Evans - 5 Things You Don’t Have to Leave Behind When You Leave Fundamentalism

Accepting Abundance - What is The Soul?

Experimental Theology - The Holiness of Pain

The Christian Belief Genetic Fallacy

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

As I am no apologist I know I’m demonstrating my enormous ignorance with this post, but today I came across the term: Genetic Fallacy.

If you’ve discoursed with atheists you will have undoubtedly come across this fallacy, but perhaps like me didn’t know the term.

It runs like this:

You’re a Christian because your parents were believers.


Belief in God developed to fulfill evolutionary needs.

As you can see this discredits a belief based on its origins, but is fallacy of irrelevance as the rationality or otherwise of the origin of belief does not preclude its validity.

I came across this explanation today:

Showing how a belief arose (perhaps in some non rational way), does not thereby disprove the belief.  The belief may still be true for other (rational) reasons. So it is with belief in God.  People may believe in God for all kinds of different reasons, even wacky ones.  But the content of the belief can still nevertheless be true.  And of course there are indeed all sorts of good arguments that can be employed to show why belief in God is a rational position.

I wonder if this covers: You believe in God because you’re mad / deluded?

Wiki also uses the terms: ‘Fallacy of origins’ and ‘Fallacy of virtue’.

I’m pleased to find the term for this annoying speciousness.

What’s the point of praying for the past?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

I had cause on Monday morning to ask fellow Christians on Twitter for prayer for the difficult day ahead. At the conclusion of the day I thanked folk that had prayed and Ben tweeted:

I’ve recently subscribed to Netflix and have been hopelessly addicted to US Sci-fi series 4400 and Heroes; consequently, the idea of prayer transcending the ‘space-time continuum’ piqued my interest.

I probed Ben for more information and I can only say that his responses felt in some way intuitively true.

The net result is Ben has written two blog posts expanding on these initial thoughts, that I’d like to invite you to read and perhaps share your thoughts over there:

Here’s the links:

Praying about the past…

More on prayer and time


The Gifts and Benefits of Doubt

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

I know the following will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it zones in on something I’ve been wrestling with and trying to grab at.

My thanks go to Professor Richard Beck for allowing me to cross-post in full. If you’re not already following Experimental Theology, I thoroughly recommend that you do so.

The Gifts and Benefits of Doubt

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing with some people the benefits of doubt in the church. In that discussion I mentioned the “gifts of doubt” I’d outlined in a old post. From that post, here are some of the benefits and gifts of doubt for the church:

1. Epistemological Benefits
This isn’t news, but truth claims are more difficult in post-modernity. Particularly those outside of the range of science. Collectively, we’ve lost the meta-narrative (the big overarching story that shaped everyone’s worldview) and have traded it in for more particular and local stories and perspectives. “Big T” Truth has been lost to “little t” truths. And this move hasn’t been all bad. The stories of the weak and marginalized are being listened to in post-modernity.

Doubters tend to flourish in this context. The fractured epistemological situation of post-modernity demands a degree of epistemic humility. Doubters are very comfortable with this. Doubters tend to shy away from shouting meta-narratives at people who don’t believe in meta-narratives. Rather than lamenting the post-modern situation, as the fundamentalists do (“No one believes in Truth anymore!”), the doubters will “get” the post-modern person and, due to certain shared sympathies, be more likely to articulate the faith in a way that makes sense to outsiders. Doubters trade in paranoid shouting for intelligible conversation.

2. Moral Benefits
As I’ve described in The Authenticity of Faith, building upon psychological research, dogmatism produces violence. True believers are dangerous.

Doubters, by contrast, tend to be pretty peaceable. Their self-suspicions tend to throw cold water on the violent impulses inherent in ideology and belief.

3. Missional Benefits
As a people sent into the world we are asked to receive the hospitality of others. To, in the words of Luke 10, “eat whatever is set before us.”  Doubters are very comfortable sitting at these tables because doubters have a natural curiosity about outsiders. If you ask a group of people at your church the question “How many of you, out of curiosity, have read the sacred writings of other world religions?” most of the doubters will answer in the affirmative. In this doubters represent a reservoir of human capital in the church, a literacy that the church can utilize and lean upon. Within the church doubters will be the most knowledgeable persons about other world religions (and atheists). Consequently, doubters are often the best front line emissaries to outsiders.

4. Biblical Benefits
The assumption might be that doubters would make a church less biblical. However, in a certain key respect doubters often make the church more biblical. Many churches tend to be pretty selective in how they read the bible. These churches often “read around” the more difficult or embarrassing parts of the bible. You can see this vividly in the Lectionary itself. Doubters, by contrast, tend to be drawn to the more difficult parts of the bible and they insist that the church, as hard as this might be, pay attention to these passages. Doubters insist that the whole bible be read. Warts and all.

5. Experiential Benefits
Doubters tend to be acutely aware that life is broken and disordered. Doubters struggle mightily with the problem of pain, evil and suffering. Thus, doubters resist the triumphalistic impulses within the church and insist that the church recognize that God is often absent and silent in the face of horrific suffering. Doubters insist that the witness of the church be an authentic and honest confrontation with the experience of the world. No praise without lament. Doubters insist that we keep it real in the face of human experience.

6. Apologetical Benefits
Dogmatists insist that apologetics (the defense of the faith) should be conducted through argumentation. This is symptomatic of a hollowed out, hyper-rationalistic faith–belief as intellectual assent. In this view apologetics reduces to an intellectual debate. Not surprisingly, these efforts tend to flounder in post-modernity.

By contrast, doubters are themselves not wholly convinced by these intellectual proofs. Thus, doubters will embody a “new apologetics.” Doubters will insist on an apologetics based upon invitation and participation rather than argumentation. Faith, to make any sense at all, must be practiced first.

Richard Beck is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University, as well as author and blogger. Richard is married to Jana and they have two sons, Brenden and Aidan. They also have a dog Bandit who keeps Richard company as he writes for his blog Experimental Theology. Richard’s area of interest–be it research, writing, or blogging–is on the interface of Christian theology and psychology, with a particular focus on how existential issues affect Christian belief and practice. Richard’s published research covers topics as diverse as the psychology of profanity to why Christian bookstore art is so bad. And on his blog Richard will spend enormous amounts of time writing about the theology of Calvin and Hobbes, the demonology of Scooby-Doo or his latest bible class on monsters.

A few good links

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

First up two posts on Prisons Week: GodandPolitics and Opinionated Vicar

Accepting Abundance - Explaining Reason: Atheism or Christianity?

Everyday Theology - Inflatable People: The Holy Spirit and Creation

Terry Mattingly – Commandments for believers who blog

ReligionDispatches - Denzel’s Profane Preaching: A Religious Movie for the Rest of Us

Beyond Blue - What Doesn’t Kill You … Well, It Still Really Sucks

What’s Wrong With The World - Drunk with reverence

A hearty congratulations to Mental Health Cop

Quote of the Day

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The world is entirely full of people who have no capacity for self-criticism; people who cannot see the dark side of what they are doing, selling or creating. I propose we reconsider the virtue of doing anything without understanding the circumstances under which someone–perhaps even ourselves–might say we hate what we are engaged in. I am suggesting that if we have not trembled with the possibilities for doing harm, we are not in a capacity to truly do good.


Quote of the Day

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Finally, if you base your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord on the truth status of the Bible rather than the other way around (basing its truth on its power to transform through relationship with Jesus Christ), you are risking idolatry. Jesus is the “Sache” of Scripture. Luther knew it as did Calvin. But fundamentalists and neo-fundamentalists put Scripture over Jesus when they try to make belief in him as Savior and Lord dependent on the inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible, then, becomes the gift in place of Jesus Christ. It should be (and is) the other way around—Jesus is the gift. The Bible is simply the Christmas-wrapped box that delivers him to us. I believe in the Bible’s truth and authority because of him. But that in no way requires belief in absolute, technical, detailed accuracy of every statement of Scripture.


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