Monthly Archives: November 2008

Back on form: disagreeing

Adrian has commented on 42: Back on form through atonement. His comment includes:

how closely can we work together with people who vehemently disagree with us.

I suggest taking the example of Jesus. Consider:

  • the variety among his disciples. For example on the issue of responding to the Roman occupation, he had collaborators (tax collectors) and those supporting terrorism (Simon the Zealot). Clearly they would have violently disagreed on issues.
  • the sermon on the mount, we see no hint of disengagement from our enemies – presumably they would count amongst those we really, really strongly disagree with :-) Instead we are to love them.
  • the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, whole cultures locked into a cycle of strong disagreement and rejection. In response to that see John 4 (Woman at the well) and Luke 10 (Good Samaritan).
  • the way Jesus continues to respond to the questioning from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Sure he disagreed with them, sure he knew they were trying to trap him, sure he warned people about them. But through all that he continued to engage with them, demonstrating through his answers a better way.

In particular I want to refer to Matthew 18:15-19, I have mentioned this passage before. Some Mennonites led a day on conflict resolution during my training. One particular aspect has stuck with me. Towards the end (verses 16 & 17) when someone is doing wrong and has not listened or changed throughout the process then you are to tell the Church and treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector.

Now that bit is the crunch. Treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector. Explicitly Adrian's response matches the religious authorities of the time and those throughout most of Christendom ie if they won't listen then tell the Church and cut them off, have nothing more to do with them (in Adrian's terms stop working with those that we violently disagree with – like Steve Chalke).

BUT the passage is Jesus speaking. When Jesus says "Treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector" obviously we are to understand "Treat them as I [Jesus] would a pagan or tax collector". How does Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? Try the story of Zaccheus – Jesus invites himself to the houses of pagans and tax collectors, he eats with them (and gets the religious authorities really hot under the collar by doing so – "He even eats with tax collectors and sinners").

So Adrian, let us take a Jesus model for deciding how closely we should work with those with whom we vehemently disagree with. Therefore a challenge. How many of those who stand against Penal Substitution have you invited to your home to eat with? How many have you sought out and asked to share fellowship with? How many have you been to and asked to pray with, to worship with?

In my own experience this is a regular occurrence in Church ministry. Take, as one example, a friend of mine, the local Catholic Priest. We very vehemently disagree on a number of issues (role of women, homosexuality, authority of the Church as three examples). But we still delight in working together, in publ;ic and private. We share leading groups in Thrapston and Raunds (with all the other local churches). We both know that in any meeting we can simply ask the other to lead some prayers at a moments notice and relax in trusting the other. We share meals together, we discuss these issues and many others. We seek to support and encourage each other in our ministries both privately and publicly.

The point is not to say that either of us are special, or unique but that this is the normal working out of Christian faith, of attempting to show (even if in a very limited way) the grace that God has already shown us. The nature of blogging all to often hides this, encouraging people to move to the extremes in order to boost their stats (been there, done that, got the tshirt).

Birds Eye: Birds Hands

I have been following PhotoshopDisasters for a week or two, it provides for some entertainment (particularly the comments – people get all stressed at the most amazing things). Anyway I thought Birds Eye: Birds Hands was a pretty good disaster (look at the lady’s right arm and hands for the most obvious problem).

Back on form through atonement

I have been fairly quiet on the blogging front for a while so what better way to work my way back into form by vehemently disagreeing with Adrian Warnock.

I have just read adrianwarnock.com: Update on Steve Chalke and The Atonement Debate and suggest taking tablets for your blood pressure would be a good idea before reading it :-)

Adrian is critiquing a book published by Zondervan called "The Atonement Debate", I find the tone of the post rather depressing and frustrating.

To be honest, when I heard
this book was going to be “cool-headed” I was already concerned about
it. I'm not sure the atonement is a subject that it's possible to be
terribly cool about. That's because another word for cool is lukewarm.
Jesus hates us to be lukewarm about crucial issues, even threatening to
spit the lukewarm from his mouth (Revelation 3).

For a start I think it would be helpful if Adrian stuck to a more standard understanding of the common expression "cool-headed". It does not mean lukewarm, it means calm, collected and in this context thoughtful and the result of considered reflection. To equate that to a Church that has lost it's zeal and fire for God and for kingdom values is ridiculous. After a period of calm following strong disagreement the very last thing needed is Adrian trying to stir things up in this way.

I much prefer
interacting with someone who is either hot or cold about important
issues like this.

Dave's cynical interpretation. I get many more hits on my blog when I stir things up than when I reflect calmly.

I can't see how people who
really believe either of those two positions can just agree to disagree
and work together as fellow evangelicals.

Wow this Gospel of reconciliation is a pretty weak and feeble thing isn't it. Not very impressive at all. Adrian believes that without accepting his understanding of the Cross the gospel is nothing at all. Yet his understanding of the reconciliation between us and God achieved through the cross is not enough to motivate him to attempt reconciliation over a point of doctrine. Who exactly does this gospel encourage Adrian to work for reconciliation with?

In his final paragraph Adrian recognises that this book is written to help evangelicals understand the debate and then move on. His response is commit himself to wrecking that in future posts.

Well thank-you very much Adrian, I am sure we are all grateful for your attempts to break up reconciliation between evangelical Christians.

[Update] Corrected some English – I blame a visit to the dentist for my inability to form coherent sentences.

Good News

After very pointed comments recently from my Mother-in-law and adopted honorary Mother-in-law (Sylvia C) I have been focusing a little attention on my weight and have joined a gym.

Today I took one of their personal fitness evaluations. They used some very fancy scales which apparently electrocuted me while measuring lots of different things, maybe I am already dead because I didn't feel a thing.

Anyway I have a page of results that say I officially not in too bad shape. According to something I have the body of a 41 year old (not bad for approaching 44) – maybe I was virtual for the first 3 years.

It is interesting to note that some BMI calculations had told me I was obese and should weigh about the same as the weight of my bones according to this test. Something must be wrong, either with these fancy tests or with people that think to become healthy I should be reduced to just a skeleton (I could understand some of my congregations thinking that I would be less trouble as a skeleton – maybe they have influence over the BMI recomendations).

Until this afternoon my target was to lose 1.5kg per month for 14 months. However, that would leave me with a total weight of bones + 5.5kg. I must say that 5.5kg does not sound like very much for brain, heart, skin and hair let alone any muscle or other bits I might need. For the minute I will aim for a 1.5kg reductiuon each month for 7 months which will take me back to a weight I can nearly remember being at :-) Then we can see if my bones have also become significantly lighter leaving scope for weight lose in easier ways than cutting out ribs.

All in all I left feeling somewhat better than before, which is good.

Home in the rain

Back home, leaving the camp site was fine (although tent and awning had to be put in the caravan very wet).

Nice lunch with Rosemary and ray in Bridgewater.

Then quite a wet journey from there. Very wet from just before Kettering.

Arriving home the tricky bit is reversing the caravan into the drive (always very tight) when it is dark and pouring with rain. Still got it in and now unloaded.

Now to make sure I am ready for the morning.