A meme points to peacemaking

Doug has tagged me with an interesting meme:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

Like Doug, I discounted the Bible on my desk, so I picked the first book that came to hand on my bookshelf. This happened to be “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here is what I found on p.123 – I have included the preceding sentence so that this makes sense:

Why are peacemakers blessed? The answer is that they are blessed because they are so absolutely unlike everybody else. The peacemakers are blessed because they are the people who stand out as being different from the rest of the world, and they are different because they are the children of God. In other words, I say, we are again plunged immediately into New Testament theology and doctrine.

Interesting comment in the light of my ongoing discussions with John Hobbins on pacifism, and most recently on peacemaking in Africa, issues on which John seems unwilling to be even a little bit “unlike everybody else”. So I will content myself with tagging John on this one.

Bishop NT Wright's "spirit of cultural superiority"

I greatly respect the theology of NT Wright, Bishop of Durham, although I don’t claim to understand all of it. I have referred to it several times, mostly positively, on this blog.

However, a letter from Dr Vinay Samuel reported by Anglican Mainstream alleges a different side to Wright’s character. Samuel, a well respected Indian theologian and evangelical Anglican, is a director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. In his letter Samuel was responding to a commentary by Wright in the Church Times, which can be read here. In this article Wright attacks the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), concerning which he refers to

the small group represented by Chris Sugden, Martyn Minns, and Peter Jensen. It is clear that they are the prime movers and drafters, making a mockery of Canon Sugden’s claim … that GAFCON is about rescuing the Churches from Western culture.

Samuel responds firmly to this. He writes that Wright

has suggested in particular that that this whole movement is now following the lead and the agenda of three white men, Bishop Martyn Minns, Archbishop Peter Jensen and Canon Chris Sugden.

I am part of the leadership team of this movement. I have known and worked with Archbishops Akinola, Kolini, Mtetemela, Nzimbi and Orombi and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali for many years. I have to say that if the scenario were as BishopWright imagines it to be, neither I nor any leader of Christians in the non-western world who have stood for years for the identity, selfrespect and dignity of Christians from the “global south” and their right to self-theologise and organise their own networks independent of influence from the former metropolitan centres of power, would have anything to do with it.

Continue reading

Which Winnie-the-Pooh character am I?

I found a quiz on Facebook (thanks to my friend Emily) Which Winnie-the-Pooh character are you? My result came out as:

You are:

You are Winnie-the-Pooh, the slow but lovable bear. You love your friends and always make time to spend with them, especially if they share their snack with you.

Perhaps I got this result because a lot of my answers revolved around food!

Is Blogflux Commentful dead?

UPDATE 30th January 9.50 PM GMT: Jacob from Blogflux has replied in a comment, thus proving that his company is not dead. The problem with the contact page seems to have been fixed – at least they responded to a test message with a proper Message Received page, not the word “shoo”. But mail to web@blogflux.com is still being bounced.

FURTHER UPDATE 30th January 10.00 PM GMT: When I tried to resubmit my list of problem web pages, the “shoo” message reappeared. Perhaps the reason for this is that the system is rejecting messages over a certain length, or containing more than a certain number of links to websites. While I can understand this as a sensible anti-spam measure in some cases, it does seem a perverse one for use by a company which provides web-based software and so needs to be informed about problems with websites. And I consider it very rude to respond even to probable spammers with a message like “shoo”, because of the likelihood of false positive spam detections. It costs (very nearly) nothing to respond with a polite message about spam.

I use Blogflux Commentful to keep track of comments on blogs which I read and comment on. Usually it seems to work well. But its working has recently become erratic; in fact basically it is failing to pick up new comments on many (but not all) posts on several of the Blogger blogs I read, including Complegalitarian and Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream. So I cannot recommend this product at least until it is fixed.

But I not hold my breath for it to be fixed. This is because I have been unable to contact Blogflux to report these problems with Commentful. When I submit feedback through their contact page, their response is a simple page with just the message “shoo”. Now I don’t know if this is an intentional message or just a random one, but to me a message “shoo” is very rude! And then when I try to submit my comment to the e-mail address which they give, I get a rejection message

550 <web@blogflux.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual mailbox table

This situation has persisted for several hours. In other words, Blogflux appears to have terminated support for their products and blocked every way of contacting them. I have searched their site for any indication that they are working on fixing a temporary problem – which they could have reported in place of the message “shoo”.

Blogflux and Commentful are stated to be resources provided by Bloggy Network LLC, but they offer no contact information at all. The domain blogflux.com is registered to Enthropia Inc in Toronto, Canada, for which at least I can find a mailing address (PO Box 592, Station-P Toronto, ON M5S 2T1 CA) and an e-mail address. So I will send them a copy of my feedback with a link to this post.

The pacifism debate continues

While I have been quiet here for some time until today, I have been continuing to discuss pacifism with John Hobbins on his blog, primarily in the comment thread of this post and also in some comments on this one.
Here is a taster. John wrote to me:

You are staking out a position … which seems to have little foundation in the biblical witness, Christian tradition, or current sensibilities. …

I don’t wish to caricature your position, but I do wish to point out its weaknesses.

I replied:

This position has “little foundation in the biblical witness” only for those who do not include the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of the teaching of Jesus in their canon. Perhaps those red letters in so many American Bibles are taken to mean that these words should be ignored.

Yes, my position has its weaknesses. So did Jesus’ position, so much so that he was crucified. But God vindicated him. I believe that God will ultimately vindicate my position, not necessarily by making it prevail, but certainly by bringing about in his eternal kingdom the pacifist vision of Isaiah 2:4 and 11:6-9.

More on learning styles

It is only a couple of months since I took the VARK learning styles questionnaire. Now I have taken another questionnaire on learning styles, from learning-styles-online.com, which was recommended by Sally. This new one differs from that VARK one in offering seven different styles rather than four, and in its claim

This is the web’s only free learning styles test with a graphical result page!

Indeed, VARK did not offer graphical results, but www.learning-styles-online.com does, and here are mine:

Your results

These are the results of your inventory. The scores are out of 20 for each style. A score of 20 indicates you use that style often.

Style Scores

Visual 7
Social 3
Physical 8
Aural 2
Verbal 10
Solitary 10
Logical 14

Memletic Learning Styles Graph:

Again I score low on aural, and relatively high on visual and physical/kinesthetic. My verbal or read/write score comes out significantly higher this time. But my highest scores are for categories not in VARK: logical and solitary. I don’t know why there is such a difference except that perhaps I answer these things inconsistently!

An Eastern Orthodox perspective on salvation

Molly has written an interesting post on Eastern Orthodox Theological Distinctives. Now I generally find eastern Orthodox theology rather attractive. But, having lived in countries where the majority of Christians are Orthodox, I tend to have a much more negative view of their church practice, and of their at least implicit attitude that if you don’t do things exactly as they do it you are not really a Christian at all.

Like Molly, I love this:

This emphasis on personal experience of truth flows into Orthodox theology, which has a rich heritage. Especially in the first millenium of Christian history, the Eastern Church produced significant theological and philosophical thought.

In the Western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, sin, grace, and salvation are seen primarily in legal terms. God gave humans freedom, they misused it and broke God’s commandments, and now deserve punishment. God’s grace results in forgiveness of the transgression and freedom from bondage and punishment.

The Eastern churches see the matter in a different way. For Orthodox theologians, humans were created in the image of God and made to participate fully in the divine life. The full communion with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed meant complete freedom and true humanity, for humans are most human when they are completely united with God.

The result of sin, then, was a blurring of the image of God and a barrier between God and man. The situation in which mankind has been ever since is an unnatural, less human state, which ends in the most unnatural aspect: death. Salvation, then, is a process not of justification or legal pardon, but of reestablishing man’s communion with God. This process of repairing the unity of human and divine is sometimes called “deification.” This term does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully with God’s divine life.

And some more from the same article not quoted by Molly:

Christ’s humanity is also central to the Orthodox faith, in the doctrine that the divine became human so that humanity might be raised up to the divine life.

Indeed, while the law court and penal substitutionary atonement offers a valid and biblical set of metaphors for Christian salvation, the reality of it is surely “reestablishing man’s [and woman’s] communion with God” such that “humans join fully with God’s divine life”. And what accomplished this was not just the crucifixion, but the whole process of the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We should not focus on just one little part of this process but see the spiritual dynamics of the whole.

I'm still here, just about

My apologies for not posting much recently. I haven’t gone away completely. But I have been extremely busy, mostly still with my house move. Also as part of this I lost my broadband connection for a few days while it was being moved to the new house, and because of this there has been a large backlog of blog posts and other material for me to read. The upside of that is that the broadband connection is now ten times faster than it used to be (5 MB) at the same price, and my ISP apologised for the delay and gave me a discount because of it.

There is still a lot to do to sort out this new house and to get the old one in a good enough state to let. So I don’t expect to be blogging a lot in the near future. But I hope things will gradually return to something like normal.

Another quiz: which theologian am I?

I have been posting a lot of these quizzes recently, not so much because I am addicted to them (but perhaps I am), more because they are a quick and easy way to find something to post when, as today, I don’t have time to write anything more profound. For the link to this one I thank Paul Trathen.

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Charles FinneyYou’re passionate about God and love to preach the Gospel. Your theology borders on pelagianism and it is said that if God were taken out of your theology, it would look exactly the same. 

Charles Finney
Jürgen Moltmann
John Calvin
Karl Barth
Friedrich Schleiermacher
Martin Luther
Paul Tillich
Jonathan Edwards

I’m not sure the comment about Finney is fair. But note that there is quite a lot of Calvin in my theology, although rather little Jonathan Edwards. I guess the person who wrote the comment was something of a Calvinist.

But as Tim Chesterton perceptively points out,

What a bunch! Not a decent Anabaptist among them!

Pacifism and the Good Samaritan

Jeremy Pierce and I have been having a long discussion in the comment thread on my post Doug ridicules Christian pacifism. Here I want to bring out one issue which came up in his most recent comment. In an earlier comment he had written:

It’s simply a moral principle that we should protect others

and I had replied:

This is where I fundamentally differ from you, especially if in doing so we kill or wound a third party. I’m not saying it is always wrong to do so either, but there is no sense in which this is a moral imperative for all, where the others have not been specifically entrusted to our care. To go beyond this is to be a “meddler” [referring to an earlier discussion of 1 Peter 4:15], as so well defined by you as “an enforcer of morality in places where you have no authority to do so”. So, yes, protect your own children, and play the hero when you see a mugging if you like (but don’t deliberately shoot the mugger dead), but it is not your responsibility to protect the children of Iraq.

To this Jeremy responded:

I have very strong resistance to the claim that I have no responsibility to treat the people of Iraq as my neighbors. Just because they don’t live next to you doesn’t mean they don’t count as neighbors in the sense that Jesus had in mind in the Good Samaritan parable. He deliberately chose a case of a foreigner helping an Israelite, indeed a foreigner most Israelites wouldn’t have seen any responsibility toward.

But does the parable of the Good Samaritan imply that as a Christian I should abandon pacifism and support armed intervention in Iraq? I don’t think so. Continue reading