Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

The Resurrection

April 22, 2013

A detailed look at the various passages in the Gospels. A series of post-Easter talks by Canon Robert Cotton of Holy Trinity and St Mary’s.

Week II John and four paintings.

Anyone who knows God cannot describe Him. Anyone who can describe God does not know Him. — Paulo Coelho

If you can’t find god in the next person you meet, it’s a waste of time looking for him anywhere else —- Gandhi

When we look at painting of the resurrection, we have to ask ourselves: Did they read the Biblical passages, did they comprehend, how did they interpret?

Francesca, Piero Della - Resurrection - Renaissance (Early Italian, "Quattrocento") - New Testament - Fresco

Resurrection – Piero Della Francesca

A fresco, that when seen in situ, appears to leap out at you. Christ depicted rising, soldiers either asleep or looking fearful. The dress of Christ could be that of a Roman Senator, indicating someone of importance.

Noli me tangere - Alexander Ivanov (1835)

Noli me tangere – Alexander Ivanov (1835)

Noli me tangere, meaning “don’t touch me” or “touch me not”, is the Latin version of words spoken, according to John 20:17, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognised him after his resurrection. The original Koine Greek phrase, Μή μου ἅπτου (mē mou haptou), is better represented in translation as “cease holding on to me” or “stop clinging to me”.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the Gospel lesson on Noli me tangere is one of the Twelve Matins Gospels read during the All Night Vigil on Sunday mornings.

Supper at Emmaus - Caravaggio (1606)

Supper at Emmaus – Caravaggio (1606)

Two of the disciples are looking at the bread. Know me by how I break bread. The third is looking at Christ with a puzzled expression. Christ female?

Emmaus - Emmanuel Garibay

Emmaus – Emmanuel Garibay

A seedy Filipino bar, lots of fun, the risen Christ a woman. Much focus on on pain, suffering, but here the focus is on joy. The painting formed part of an exhibition called Jesus Laughing and Loving.

 an exhibition called Jesus Laughing and Loving

an empty tomb

An empty tomb, the grave garments cast to one side.

In the first passage in John, we have the tomb found empty Mary Magdalene arrives first, then the men, a slight squabble between the men as to who got there first saw what.

But the men they arrive they see they go home. Is this not something of a let down? They find the tomb empty then simply go home!

Mary sees angels, has a chat with who she assumes to be a gardener. Do you not know who I am Mary?

Is there some significance in gardener? Is it not natural to assume the gardener, or a groundsman looking after the grounds?

Jesus appears before the men who are locked away in hiding. Thomas is not there, but when he is told, he wants to see some evidence. Is it fair to call Thomas doubting? He has been told an incredible story, is it not reasonable to ask for some hard evidence, to see with his own eyes?

The Gospel accounts differ on detail, which makes them more credible.

That it is women who are the first witnesses, also makes more credible, as they could not have given testimony in court. If wished to fabricate a story would have had men first on the scene.

Emphasises the importance of women, especial of Mary Magdalene.

In the beginning was the word. The word has no gender.

In the Koran the first word is read, all on its own. That it is all on its own, it is interpreted as a command. But it does not say only men read. To read you need an education.

His friends, his comrades, do not recognise Him. They know Jesus the Man, but do not know the Risen Christ, the Christos. They walk with him, sit down to eat, it is only when he breaks the bread, they recognise who he is. Mary Magdalene was the closest, and she does not recognise, she mistook for the gardener.

Has there been so much change? Or maybe they were in a state of shock. They have seen a close friend, comrade, travelling companion brutally executed. Why would they recognise a few days later, if approached by someone they knew to be dead? It is something the mind would not accept.

Men and Women were created equal in his image. What is that image? Is it like one of those strange images that flips between two states as you look at it? If created equal in the same image, can the Risen Christ not be female?

Jesus the Man v the Risen Christ, a dichotomy that was to spilt the Ancient Church over the next few hundred years and much blood shed.

When he was alive, Jesus asked of his disciples: Who do they say I am?

Doubt, as expressed by Thomas, is to question. We should always question. Those who do not are bigots and fundamentalist, who kill and maim others because they do not share the same world view.

Last year BBC Radio 4 had an excellent series on doubt presented by a former Scottish Bishop, but sadly like many good programmes, they did not keep on-line, though I believe there may have been an accompanying book.

The Gospels speak of the Resurrection of Jesus, not of us.

Relevant Biblical passages: Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-20, Luke 24:13-35 and John 20.

Stations of the cross in Lincoln Cathedral

February 7, 2013

—- more soon —–

Simple

June 22, 2012

Men came from the sea
with their unusual catch -
one hundred and fifty three.
A fire burned on the beach.

They had expected nothing,
now there was a glut,
and also this man waiting.
The charcoal was white hot.

But was the man there?
One moment it seemed so,
the next he was not.
Master, they said, don’t go.

Like thin air shimmering
when powerful heat bakes it,
he continued his waiting.
Indefinite. Definite.

The fire burned on the beach
with their unusual catch.
They had expected nothing.
Now there was too much.

– Andrew Motion

I heard this read a few moments ago by Andrew Motion.

Very moving. It was like hearing something from Khalil Gibran.

Andrew Motion was on the last in the series of Honest Doubt, a series by Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, talking about religion.

Also featured was Tears in the Rain from the film Blade Runner.

Shame on the BBC that they are not holding this excellent series on-line.

The omnibus edition on BBC Radio 4, 2100 BST tonight.

Andrew Motion explained how he came to write the poem, sitting in church listening to the service.

The relevant text is St John Chapter 21.

Erasing Hell

March 1, 2012

God has the right to do whatever He pleases. — Psalms 115:3

If we dig deep and find the caring, loving part God has placed within us, the angels cannot be restrained from actively being our associates. — Elaine Street

Anyone who knows God cannot describe him. Anyone who can describe God does not know him. — Paulo Coelho

Erasing Hell may not be brimming with hatred but is certainly lacking in grace.

Francis Chan plays the proof text game.

One can prove almost anything playing the proof text game.

Fancy engaging in a little genocide? There are Biblical texts you can quote. Slaughter all men, women and children. Spare not even the women and children.

The Lord´s Army in Uganda use biblical texts to justify their atrocities. As do suicide bombers, Islamist fundamentalists use The Koran.

Yes, God is all powerful. He could destroy the earth tomorrow in the blink of an eye, but could is not the same as would.

We have a loving God, a God who cares. Why would such a God condemn to an eternity in Hell for sins committed in a finite lifetime?

But Francis Chan commits to Hell, not for sins committed, but for not believing what he says we must believe.

We have not free will if we must believe what we are told to believe, and will be punished if we do not comply

Desmond Tutu addresses this very well in Tutu: A Portrait.

Does God say to the Dalia Lama, yes I recognise you are a Holy Man, but because you chose a different path, I will condemn you to an eternity in Hell?

At a St Joseph’s Day party at a medieval Venetian castle, Paulo Coelho told of dying at birth, of being strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother prayed. She promised she would mark St Joseph’s Day as thanks. She never kept her promise. God did not punish her. He recognised the frailties of human beings. Paulo Coelho now keeps his mother’s failed promise. He celebrates St Joseph’s Day with his friends, and has done so for the last 25 years.

In, I think, The Valkyries, an encounter with angels, Paulo Coelho speaks of the angel with a flaming sword guarding the entrance to heaven. The angel no longer guards the gate. The way is open to all. There are many paths. No one person has the right to say theirs is the right path. There are those bigots who have the arrogance to claim theirs is the one and only, the true path.

As Ron Bell says in Love Wins, not all would wish to enter heaven as they would have to change. Would the racist wish to sit with peopple of all races and colours? Would the bigot wish to sit with those of other faiths?

When asked, Master how do we enter heaven? Jesus gave as many different answers as those who asked.

In the Koran, we learn that to enter heaven is to recognise the one true God and to do good.

In The Shack we learn God is not a God of wrath.

Francis Chan is not though content to play the proof text game. He performs mental gymastics to claim words mean other than what they mean.

Erasing Hell is an evil book. It is like those odious people who stop you in the street and tell you if you do not believe what we believe you will suffer eternal damnation. They of course are always counted with the chosen few.

The origins of Christmas

December 26, 2011
icon of Emperor Constantine with Nicene Creed

icon of Emperor Constantine with Nicene Creed

The Visitation in the Book of Hours of the Duc de Berry; the Magnificat in Latin

The Visitation in the Book of Hours of the Duc de Berry; the Magnificat in Latin

Statue of the Visitation at the Ein Karem Church of the Visitation

Statue of the Visitation at the Ein Karem Church of the Visitation

If you had spoken to early Christians of the celebration of Christmas they would have looked at you perplexed, worse still in horror, the celebration of the birthday of a God was something Pagans did.

There was not even a date in the Christian calendar!

The Gospels are silent on the date of the Birth of Jesus, though there are hints. The shepherds were tending their flocks at night, would place it sometime in the spring.

Christmas was invented by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD when he converted to Christianity.

Constantine saw a fiery cross in the sky. Were he to convert, it would lead him to military victory.

Constantine adopted an existing Pagan festival, that of the Winter Solstice, which then was 25 December.

It is easier to get people to celebrate an existing festival with a new name, than to create a new festival.

Rome was being torn apart by warring factions. One such faction was Christians.

Christianity was adopted as the official religion of Rome with Constantine as head of the church. Christianity went from being oppressed to being the oppressor. The might of the state which was used against Christians was now deployed against their enemies.

Christianity became the religion of Empire, a military empire.

But that was not all, Constantine reinvented Christianity, the focus changed.

Giles Fraser:

By marginalising Christ’s teachings about poverty, humility, and above all peace, Constantine was able to take a religion founded in pacifism and use it for his military machine in pursuit of a ‘just war’ – something political leaders have been doing ever since.

Christianity under Constantine changed from the religion of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and powerful, from the oppressed to the oppressors, it became the religion of the ruling class.

Religion the tool to control the people.

One God, one powerful ruler who represents God on Earth.

During the reign of Constantine Christianity becomes very visible. It emerges from the Catacombs to erect great churches.

Constantine dispatched his mother Helen to locate the place of Birth and Death of Jesus and ordered that churches be built richly decorated to mark the locations.

The First Council of Nicea (325 AD), under the patronage of Constantine, draw up the Nicene Creed. A gathering of Bishops to draw up a declaration they could all sign up to.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.

It was thought the First Council of Nicea had setted matters. It had not.

The First Council of Constantinople 381 AD was called under Emperor Theodosius. It was this Council which defined what we regard as the Nicene Creed today.

The Nicene Creed, official statement of what it is to be a Christian. Still read in Churches today. It was read when I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Canon Andrew White cites it in Faith under Fire.

- Midnight Mass at St John’s

The Nicene Creed jumps from birth to death, no mention of radical teachings. Christianity adapted to suit Empire.

Contrast with Mary’s Magnificat (Book of Common Prayer):

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Several Councils were held. There were four main centres of Christianity: Rome, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. All vied as centres as power, much blood was shed, as to what form Christianity would take.

Jesus welcomed all: the rich the poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, of whatever race and creed. Christians did not serve in the Roman Empire. All changed with the conversion of Constantine.

On Christmas Day, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral Giles Fraser presented a very moving documentary on earlier Christianity and the impact of Emperor Constantine. BBC as usual shoots itself in the foot and it is only available on-line for seven days.

- Constantine: The Man Who Invented Christmas

What we think of as the traditional Nativity scene, draws upon but is not of the Gospels, was invented by St Francis of Assisi in 1223, when he created a tableau in a cave of Jesus in a manger, animals looking on. In the Old Testament we can find prophecy of this scene.

As a descendent of the Royal House of David, Jesus could have been born in a royal palace, he was not, he was born in a stable. A man of humble birth, born a stable with the animals looking on.

St Paul’s had a steep learning curve when the camp arrived. St Paul’s was closed for a week under bogus health and safety grounds. The clergy, with the noticeable exception of the Registrar who prefers to act for power, has been forced to re-examine what they are here for. They are now working closely with the camp, to go back to the origins of Christianity, to act on the teachings of Jesus, to act for the poor, the dispossessed.

Those who can, have long fled Iraq. Those left are the poor and dispossessed. When all is lost, faith is all that is left.

Lord Hylton on a visit to Baghdad described St George’s as a church of the future. A church that welcomes everyone and everyone is made welcome, be they Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, be they Christian or Muslim, where everyone is loved and shares their love. A place where angels appear. A place of peace and tranquillity in a war-torn country.

Top story News For and About Emerging Artists (Monday 26 December 2011)

- Jesus Wars
- The Mary We Never Knew
- Occupy London presents a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – 6pm Friday 30 December at the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral

A Christmas tale

December 24, 2011
troubadour

troubadour

A medieval legend tells us that in the country we know today as Austria the Burkhard family – a man, a woman and a child – used to amuse people at Christmas parties by reciting poetry, singing ancient troubadour ballads, and juggling. Of course, there was never any money left over to buy presents, but the man always told his son:

“Do you know why Santa Claus’s bag never gets empty, although there are so many children in the world? Because it may be full of toys, but sometimes there are more important things to be delivered, what we call “invisible gifts”. In a broken home, he tries to bring harmony and peace on the holiest night in Christianity. Where love is lacking, he deposits a seed of faith in children’s hearts. Where the future seems black and uncertain, he brings hope. In our case, the day after Father Christmas comes to visit us, we are happy to be still alive and doing our work, which is to make people happy. Never forget that.”

Time passed, the boy grew up, and one day the family passed in front of the impressive Melk Abbey, which had just been built. The young Burkhard wanted to become a priest. The family understood and respected the boy’s wish. They knocked at the door of the monastery and were given generous welcome by the monks, who accepted the young Buckhard as a novice.

Christmas Eve came around. And precisely on that day, a special miracle happened in Melk: Our Lady, carrying the baby Jesus in her arms, decided to descend to Earth to visit the monastery.

All the priests lined up and each of them stood proudly before the Virgin trying to pay homage to the Madonna and her Son.

At the very end of the line, young Buckhard anxiously waited his turn. His parents were simple people, and all that they had taught him was to toss balls up in the air and do some juggling.

When it came his turn, the other priests wanted to put an end to all the homage that had been paid, since the ex-juggler had nothing important to add and might even mar the image of the abbey.

Nevertheless, deep in his heart he also felt a great need to give something of himself to Jesus and the Virgin. Feeling very ashamed before the reproachful gaze of his brothers, he took some oranges from his pocket and began to toss them in the air and catch them in his hands, creating a beautiful circle in the air.

At that instant, the baby Jesus, lying in Our Lady’s lap, began to clap his hands with joy. And it was to young Buckhard that the Virgin held out her arms to let him hold the smiling child for a few moments.

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog, based on a medieval story.

In Istanbul, courtesy of Paulo Coelho, I met Abbot Burkhard of Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Order in Austria.

Jesus was born in an empty building

December 24, 2011

Brilliant poetry reading on the life of Jesus at St Paul’s in-the-Camp.

Jesus was a protester by Catherine Brogan.

For Lina to bring a smile to her face.

Top story SPOT – a poetry paper (Friday 24 December 2011).

The Odd Man at the Dinner Party

November 28, 2011

When I first began attending Quaker meeting 16 years ago, I quickly noticed a notable absence. Sunday after Sunday would pass (or First Day after First Day, as the Quakers insisted on calling it) without a mention of Jesus. I mean, Quakers were Christians, weren’t they? It was as if he had dropped down a rabbit hole somewhere in the Quaker past to be replaced by – well, nothing. There was no central figure, no icon, no rallying point. I brought the subject up with the folks that I figured were the “weighty Friends” and received a set of thoroughly unsatisfactory answers, all equally vague and non-committal: “teacher,” “model,” “significant religious figure,” or (my favorite) “metaphor.” No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t flush out anyone who would give the stock answer: “Divine Son of God who was born to a virgin and died on the cross to atone for my sins and then was resurrected from the dead to sit on the right hand of God until such time as he returns to judge the quick and the dead.” I mean, that’s the right answer, isn’t it? The one that, at the very least, would get you a gold star from the sweet Sunday School teacher – or, more to the point, save you from a miserable fiery eternity if you would just sign on to this version of the Christ story. Eternal damnation, fire and brimstone, or its alternative, wafting around forever on a cloud sporting a pair of wings and plucking a harp didn’t appear to be part of the Quaker way.

Frankly, this was a big relief, but I remained disconcerted by the generally Quakerly discomfort with Jesus to whom I took to referring as “the odd man at the Quaker dinner party.” He was there if you looked for him, sitting at the far end of the table, sort of awkwardly squeezed in. Most of the other guests were happy to make small talk with him, but no one really wanted to engage with him in any serious way, particularly since some of the guests were determined to ignore him altogether. Poor Jesus. “I’ll talk to you,” I would squeak inwardly. “I still care.”

Of course, I came to Quakerism fairly unmolested spiritually. Unlike many people who cross the Meetinghouse threshold, I was not a member of the walking wounded who had been chewed up and spat out by their previous faith communities (or at least by those brethren in charge of their previous faith communities). Born with a fairly big “God gene,” I had thus far enjoyed a fairly riveting walk through a number of religious venues – transcendentalism as expressed in “Little Women,” born-again-ism (more than once), transcendental meditation, Mormonism, a brief dabble in Buddhism-lite. All of this my resolutely non-religious family bore with fairly good grace even though I think they found me a little odd and occasionally a real pain in the butt. (“No, I won’t give Grandpa his Scotch at 6 because it goes against my religious principles.”) I enjoyed all of these sortees and came away pretty positive about all of it even if I couldn’t permanently swallow the whole tamale.

By the time I came to Quakerism, I had been off the path for about a decade, getting married, having children, and, shall we say, worshiping at the shrine of Bacchus. But children have a bad habit of getting one thinking about stuff other than the next good time. For reentry into the religious life, I took them to the local Methodist church. Everything a family could want – good people, nice minister who didn’t look as if he was going to demand anything scary, terrific youth program. Except I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t serve up the usual Christian boilerplate to my children and look them in the eye and say, “It’s all true.” So I asked my Quaker friend Catherine to take me to Meeting with her. I loved the idea of Quakers. Peaceful, serene, emanating, no doubt, a faintly ethereal glow powered by all of that brotherly love. Also, unusual and vaguely exotic, which I considered a plus. And if I wanted a spiritual path devoid of Christian boilerplate this was definitely it. So why did I feel so bereft at the absence of Jesus?

Posted by Patricia Barber at Head Upon a Stone.

To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees

November 21, 2011
Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

It was as a Galilean Jew that he befriended the poor and the despised. It was as a Galilean Jew that he thundered against the powerful and the haughty. — Howard Jacobson

Jesus was living like a good Jew, going to the synagaoge, praying and living according to the Law of Moses in his house. — Fr Eugenio Alliato, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Yeshua was a Jew and an observant one … He stressed Torah and love – but in this he drew upon the Jewish tradition. — Leonard Swidler, American Roman Catholic scholar

To heaven hell with Scribes and Pharisees: A priest and a rabbi take a fresh look at the Jewish religion and its leaders at the time of Jesus.

Speakers:

- Rev Marcus Braybrooke, author of Meeting Jews
- Rabbi Jackie Tabick, chair World Congress of Faiths

The Revd Marcus Braybrooke, a retired parish priest, was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his more than 40 years contribution to the development of inter-religious co-operation and understanding throughout the world. He is a former Executive Director of the Council of Christians and Jews and is a Co-Founder of the Three Faiths Forum and also President of the World Congress of Faiths, of which Jackie Tabick is the chair.

Jackie Tabick, rabbi at the North West Surrey Synagogue at Weybridge is also on the executive of the Interfaith Network. When Jackie studied medieval history at the University of London, her speciality was church history. She went on to study for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College.

A Jewish-Christian double act.

Jesus was a Jew! He was a faithful Jew, brought up in a Jewish household, adhered to the Jewish faith.

Pharisees insisted on the letter of the law, legalism.

We need a historical reappraisal of Jesus as a Jew.

From a Christian perspective, Jewishness is seen as compliance with the law.

Was Jesus a Pharisee or an Essene? He was sufficiently conversant with the law to argue with the Pharisees on equal terms.

Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, as reported in the Gospels, were no greater than the arguments amongst the Pharisees themselves. There were sharp differences amongst the Rabbis, for example, between Hillel and Shammai, and their respective followers. It needs also to be remembered that the Gospels were written down at least thirty years after the death of Jesus and in part reflect the growing tension between the synagogue and early church, which is clearly illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles.

On the death of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple, there were two main religious groupings, the followers of Jesus a Jewish sect were one. These slowly draw apart until by 134 AD they could be seen as separate and distinct.

It is worth emphasizing that the split between church and synagogue took place over a long period and only in part for theological reasons. There was no sudden break. Rather, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are two developments, drawing on similar sources in first century Judaism, which gradually moved further and further apart, rather like a couple becoming estranged, who discover that in more and more ways their lives have drifted apart. By the end of the second Jewish revolt in 134 CE, despite some remaining links, ‘Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate.’ Over the centuries bitterness and hostility between the two communities increased and has only begun to be reversed in the twentieth century.

Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus. This is a bit like calling all Germans Nazis.

Pontius Pilate was a cruel Roman governor. He was recalled to Rome because of his cruelty. Judaea was a troublesome province. Any hint of insurrection, a leader of a revolt claiming to be the King of the Jews, would have attracted the death penalty. The Gospels, aiming at a Roman not Jewish audience, attempt to shift the blame onto the Jews.

It was not until 1965 that the Vatican issued a statement that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus.

Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah, is that how his followers saw him? Later yes, but during his lifetime no. Son of God did not mean what we think today. It was a title.

The great Jewish New Testament scholar David Flusser was once asked after a talk to a group of clergy, ‘What do you pray for when you pray for Christians?’ He replied, ‘I pray that you will be more like your Master Jesus.’

Torah should be seen as teaching not the law.

Why did Pharisees get a bad press, and this was not only from the followers of Jesus, it was also in the eyes of other Jews?

It was a period of change and turmoil, out of which rose Judaism and Christianity. There were two other great Jewish teachers apart from Jesus, but these are unknown to Christians. The Jewish teachings did not end with the Old Testament, The Torah, to be replaced by the New Testament. Jews were developing their own scriptures in parallel with the New Testament.

What is known as The Torah came out of Babylon.

The High Priests were corrupt. An understanding of Jewishness was needed outside of the Temple which was central to what it was to be a Jew.

Jewishness had to be re-invented outside of the Temple. This became even more important after the Temple was destroyed.

Synagogues existed at the time of the Temple. They were centres of learning not prayer.

It is a Jewish tradition to argue for the sake of heaven. One does so with good heart, not enmity.

Jesus argued, he was following a Jewish tradition, he was a Jew!

Pharisees and Christians become the two main groups. Pharisees could exist outside of the Temple, the High Priests no longer existed. A whole new set of sacred literature was developed.

It is self-evident Jesus was a Jew. To understand his teachings one has to place them in their first century Jewish-Roman-Greek context. Many churches fail to understand this. Jesus behaved like a Jew. He nearly always answered a question with a question. That was the Jewish way. The Gospels were written for different groups, some more Jewish than others. Often the emphasis was on the difference to separate what were two competing religious groups, each claiming their Jewish heritage.

A common heritage, Jews, Christians and Muslims. For Jews the written word is the path to God, for Christians it is through Jesus, for Muslims it is the Koran.

The Bible speaks with many voices, often contradictory voices. What cannot be found in one source can often be found in another.

We hear a lot of Islamic fundamentalists, less of Christian fundamentalists. Those who lack doubt, who do not question, are bigots. We learn by talking to people of other faiths.

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is a devout Catholic, but he recognises there are many paths to God, no one person has a monopoly. As he describes in Aleph, he questioned his faith.

The Koran tells us that God made Man of many faiths and we should respect them.

Guildford Seeking Common Ground Lecture for Interfaith Week at Trinity Centre, Holy Trinity Church, top of Guildford High Street Monday 21 November 2011.

- Behold! The Jewish Jesus
- Christianity: A History – Episode 1: Jesus the Jew
- Oneness of Humanity and the Unity of Religion
- Choosing the best road
- The Bible A Biography
- What a Rabbi Learns from Muhammad
- The Gospels
- Where does the New Testament come from?
- Jesus Wars
- Love Wins

Finding God in the Shack

October 12, 2011
Finding God in the Shack

Finding God in the Shack

Finding God in the Shack is a rehash of The Shack with errors.

It starts off with a synopsis of The Shack, only problem is it is riddled with errors. Not a good start.

At this point I will reiterate the advice given in Finding God in the Shack, read The Shack first, if you have done so, then please continue.

Finding God in the Shack is essentially a reader for The Shack, it looks at the theology of The Shack and asks did William Young get it right. And there is a lot of theology in The Shack!

The Shack, is not, as Roger E Olson wrongly states, a book about the Great Sadness, though it is in part. It is a philosophical discussion of the nature of God, Mack’s relationship with God and the need to forgive.

The Great Sadness is a burden Mack has to bear. His daughter goes missing, believed killed by a serial child killer, her body is never found. Mack blames himself, he blames God.

The One Big Question: why is there suffering in the world? Why does an all powerful, infinitely good God allow suffering? Maybe God is not good, maybe he is not all powerful, in which case who is more powerful, maybe he simply does not exist?

We have free will. Evil is the absence of Good, in the same way Dark is the absence of Light. We can handle Evil in theory, but how in practice when it brushes against us? How do we handle the brutal death of a child?

There are those who will say it was God’s will. Really!

When a child plummets to their death, was it God’s will? Did God give a little nudge, because God delighted in seeing the child’s head split open when the child hits the ground?

Maybe God does sometimes intervene. How often do we hear it said it was a miracle that so and so survived? But mainly God does not intervene.

Were God to always intervene, we would have the Law of Unintended Consequences, the Laws of Physics would not work. We cannot have it all ways.

Roger E Olson warns of using proof texts to prove a point, the Bible speaks with many voices, often contradictory voices, and yet he is too often guilty as charged, worse still, he then gives contrary examples that contradict the point he has made.

Roger E Olson says if you do not go to church then you are not a Christian. He then gives examples of bad churches that he himself has left!

I would turn this on its head and say there are many who go to church who are not Christians. Simply going through the motions every Sunday does not make you a Christian.

This is to ignore Holy Men who lived a life of solitude.

Paulo Coelho tells a story, or more likely retells a story. A priest goes to visit a man who does not attend church. The two sit in silence before a fire. The priest removes an ember and puts in the hearth. It goes dull and cold. He then puts it back in the fire and leaves. Point made.

Some need community others do not.

Is Christianity all happiness and light? There are are many examples of Christians who have had doubts, who have suffered depression. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy for example.

Paulo Coelho had doubts. He went on a spiritual journey which he recounts in Aleph.

Jesus warned that those who followed him were not embarking on an easy journey.

Roger E Olson confuses feeling depressed with depression.

Roger E Olson does not like the ending of The Shack and arrogantly constructs his own. He does not believe that after what happened to Mack he can rebuild his life. Why not? He had long conversations with God. He saw that his daughter Missy was happy where she was, that she did not blame him for what had happened, that she had forgiven her killer. Yes, he will feel sad, as he will miss her.

There are many well documented cases of people forgiving acts of depravity. One only has to look at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa.

If you cannot forgive, let go, it consumes. If we all exacted an eye for an eye, we would as Gandhi once said, be living in a world of blind men.


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