Showing posts from November, 2012

The Cultural pendulum of purity

It's easy to adopt a revisionist view of missions history, believing our missionary forefathers stumbled through foreign lands with British blinkers on, blind to cultural sensitivities which have only been discovered by us in this global generation.

This assumption is arrogant and wrong. From the very beginning of the spread of the early church we find Paul relating the gospel first to Jews in the synagogue with a narrative they understood, then to to the Gentiles, adapting his story to point to the same Jesus. His Athenian preaching is well noted as a masterpiece of bridge building cultural awareness.

Later, some of the early church Fathers used the philosophical worldview of their day as a launch pad to communicate the gospel. Origen's strategy was simple. In his own words, he used philosophy 'in the same way the Egyptians were plundered by the people of Israel.' Their wilderness tabernacle was built by instructions given by God to Moses, but it was constructed with m…

The ghost of Christians past and the modern Romanian

One amazing conversation in Romania last week highlights more than anything the huge shift that has taken place in 20 years or so since the fall of the Communist regime.
Aurel, a 26 year old teacher was a small child when Communism fell. Whilst things can still be incredibly tough for young Romanians, Aurel is a part of the generation that have grown up with relative freedom and without the oppression of the old order.

As a Christian, Aurel told me that he had got hooked on buying bibles! So many bibles, in so many shapes, sizes, versions and covers are now available: From red letter words of Jesus, to two tone leather pocket paraphrases - Aurel was hooked and buying them all!
One night recently in a dream, he had a conversation with William Tyndale! Tyndale is the father of bible translations, martyred for his English bible under Henry VIII's own brand of controlled regime.

Aurel says that Tyndale approached him in the dream holding a big black leather bible. Speaking in a stern …

Women Bishops and the wife who wouldn't stay in the box

The General Synod of the Church of England will decide today whether to appoint women as Bishops. Many say this is the biggest breakthrough for women in the church, but history would contend with that idea.
The true architect of the Anglican church, Thomas Cranmer had woman trouble himself. The idea of appointing women to the clergy or to hold the office of Bishop would have been laughable to him. Cranmer’s women's issue was about his ability to even take a wife!

The tradition of clerical celibacy, approved of by Henry VIII in both his Catholic and Anglican phases, meant that Priests like Cranmer were unable to marry. In fact, it was simply easier to take a mistress, this was generally accepted as necessary, fulfilling the letter of the law if not the spirit of it.

Upon his first marriage, Cranmer had to resign his post at Jesus College and was almost reduced to poverty. Sadly the first Mrs Cranmer died in childbirth.
Cranmer’s rise to power was sudden and unexpected, as were his …

From Hobbit holes to the ends of the earth!

I've been enjoying the Hobbit again, this time with my youngest son for the first time. Maybe it is stage of life, or coincidental to what I'm currently teaching through from the bible, but I'm seeing so many connections between the life of Bilbo Baggins and the call on ordinary people like us to wake up to the big promise of the kingdom.
The Bilbo we meet early in the story may have hairy feet and three breakfasts, but in every other respect he mirrors our lives - a love of comfort; a fear of strangers and of the outside world. The word "adventure” is not one he would use, that kind of thing is for others. For the Hobbit there is the satisfied pattern of a familiar, easy life.

Bilbo doesn't even know that he has a hidden longing for adventure built deep inside of him, it's in his Tookish side, in his blood, it's what he was really made for. Listening to the Dwarves sing their deep, mysterious songs of far off places, “Something Tookish woke up inside him a…

Mainstream Mitt? What do Mormons believe?

Mitt Romney has not only brought slick hair back into American politics, but his Mormon faith has stirred up questions on both sides of the Atlantic.In the last few days I've been asked a number of times about what Mormons believe and whether they are mainstream or a cult.Assumptions range from Mormons being dangerous cultists, across the spectrum to believing that they are essentially Christians. Where do they stand?

This isn't a political blog posting, nor is it anti Mormon. Indeed, whilst the Mormon theology may be off track, Christians might find themselves closer to a Mormon politician on values than we realise. As Luther put it rather crudely 450 years ago, it's better to be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian. I'm not calling Romney a Turk any more than I'm labling Obama a fool - but I am against knee jerk dismissals of potential leaders simply because they don't tick all of our boxes. Some Christian commentary has been so angrily obsessed …

All Saints Day discipleship with Thomas Cranmer

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me wax lyrical about one of my heroes, Thomas Cranmer on numerous occasions. His 1549 and then 1552 revision of the Prayer Book would have changed English social history for ever had Edward VI only lived a few more years. As it was, Edward's untimely death meant the end of a reformed Prayer book, and soon after, an end for Cranmer, burned alive at the stake under Queen Mary.

We reformed modernists have turned our back on the old church calender with it's connection to the land, the seasons and the peoples of another age. However, the nuances of Cranmer's measured language, and his systematic teaching of theology to those who knew nothing of the gospel or the grand narrative of God's dealings with men, has yet to be surpassed in any generation. Quite simply, Cranmer discipled the entire English tribe with his simple daily prayers and scripture readings. His biblical ideas gradually becoming established and embedded in a nation…