Friday Fundamentals – Dogma and Fear

Recently we have seen, both the threat of violence and the denunciation of that violence from the same source. Islamic believers. Different Islamic believers, I hasten to add but the common denominator is most definitely Islam.

The threat and/or manifestation of such violence and the correspondent denunciation of violence does two things for Islam. It expands the place of Islam at the table of civil discourse. This place is maintained because of the denouncement of violence and the general ‘religion of peace‘ vibe but this place is actually strengthened because of the threat or actualisation of violence.

I am not suggesting that the actors who violate and the actors who denounce the violation are in cahoots. I am just noting the obvious – Islam is in no way harmed and is in fact only helped by it having a minority – only numbering in the hundreds of millions as opposed to billions,  thus making it a minority  – who will threaten violence and a smaller number who will bring to fruition the rotten threat.

I have to say that what I am proposing only applies to western, liberal, secularising democracies. A government dominated by Hindu nationalists for example will tend to see the world of Islam differently and time will tell, though our confirmed liberals may never be able to tell for dogmatic reasons, how accurate the Hindu view is or isn’t.

So why does this strengthening of the place at the table occur? There are a couple of reasons. In the western, liberal, secularising democracies, the denunciation from some of the Islamic community is what those at the table want and need to hear. Need to hear – if they are to remain in any way confident about a possibly peaceful future. But also they are glad to hear and entertain it because to consider a lack of denunciation and it’s implications would be too nightmarish. Nightmarish – both in terms of future possible events but more immediately because it would challenge the very foundation of their non-negotiable assumptions about the world.

The liberal worldview posits the view that ‘others‘, like muslims, real muslims don’t and so the dogma goes, can’t actually pose any threat to anyone in anyway. The counterpart to this underestimation is the overestimation of who can be an actual threat – an enemy of the state. There is an enemy within – those still holding too firmly to the Judeo-Christian perspective. The Christians, real Christians, are alas not ‘other’ enough. Christianity is the mother, father, and forbear to the western, liberal, and now through mutation, secularising democracy. And like so many children in this age of individualism, the child has grown to hate it’s parent, it’s past, it’s heritage. Now the sole enemy is the dark shadow of the West’s previous self. At the table, the liberals look soley at their forebears with suspicion. Generally speaking, everyone else gets a free pass. There are no enemies without, only enemies within. The shameful, historical, hegemonic, did I say shameful, colonizers are the Christians. Muslims, gays and the new kids on the block, the transgenders are their victims. All new arrivals are innocent. Not by proof but by dogma.

denial

For source – click image

The dogma of seeking to accept and value ‘the other’ without prejudice and critique is both an ideal of brilliance and strength but fast becoming the fatal flaw of the Western liberal society. Consequently, at the table of civil discourse, Islam, no matter what happens, good or bad, near or far, gets a free pass, gets to drape itself in the flag of victimhood and those at the table gather round it, puts their arm gingerly around its shoulder and gives a look of unqualified, supportive comfort.
I have no objection to some support and comfort and there is certainly much good that comes from the world of Islam; but it’s the unqualified, uncritical, liberally dogmatic approach to Islam that is objectionable, to my mind. Objectionable, unwise and almost certainly unsafe.
But let’s get back to the table. The assertion is made that the place of peaceful Muslims at the table of civil society is actually strengthened by there being Muslims that threaten, kill or just express support for threateners and killers. Dogma aside, what else is at play that strengthens Islam’s place at the table? Fear. Clear and simple.
Non-Muslims at the table are actually, counter-intuitively, frightened of Muslims in general, and especially of the killing kind. This is primarily because they can’t quite fully bring themselves to trust Islam; the religion which lies behind both types of Muslims frequently on the minds of western people – the good Muslims and the bad ones. The good ones thankfully outnumber the bad ones. By the way, all this good and bad descriptors are not necessarily Islamic descriptors but common sense desciptors. But these descriptors are fluid in regard to at least the persons being referred to. Sadly, there are now too many examples of those men and now women, from stable, well resourced, peaceful Muslim families and communities who have turned into the other kind of Muslim. The killing kind. Yes, thankfully a minority. But regrettably growing in numbers and now increasingly even challenging the peaceful Muslims to the point of death, to engage in war against the infidels – the un, non and dis-believers. The non-muslim is not even a muslim and then there’s the wrong kind of muslim – off with all their heads! Just like in the good old days.
Fear of any community or group can have the same effect as living, working or schooling with a bully. You give them a wide berth when you can and more room when you have to. They end up with getting their requirements met more easily and more often than others. Why is this? Because people are afraid of the consequences of not playing ball. Not playing ball, paying appropriate respect, not giving up what you thought was your reasonable entitlement, has consequences. Negative consequences.
Threats from one member of a family eases the way for other family members. Whether this is desired or not. Threats and violence even when denounced, still have a direct effect at the everyday table of generally peaceful people. There is a subconsious effect on all and a conscious effect on some at the table.
fear table

For source – click image

Even at the table of light entertainment and sarcastic, cynical comedy, comedians don’t mock Muhammad or Islam. This is never out of respect and always out of fear. The brave ones, as one might call them on a very generous day, even admit this. Jimmy Carr – equally foul-mouthed and foul-minded, a man who wastes his God-given talents of wit and charisma – says on stage that his will to live prevents him making any kind of jokes which offend the person of Muhammad and then shows a cartoon of Jesus being …. I can’t actually finish this sentence. It’s so offensive. Jesus is my saviour and the Son of God. Jimmy Carr’s Saviour and the Son of God.
But Jimmy doesn’t respect or fear me as a Christian. He’s right not to fear me. Actually he doesn’t respect Muslims either but he does fear them. Not just the killing kind. But the book burning kind. Jimmy sells books and DVDs by the truckload. He really doesn’t want to spend his summer holidays with Salman Rushdie.
So dogma and fear combine to give peaceful Muslims a place of disproportionate strength and influence at the table of civil discourse; whether they want it or not, whether they dispise or regret this mechanism or not. Many, I’m sure regret this mechanism. It may be unislamic according to their brand of Islam but it is beyond their control. It just happens. It cannot not happen. The liberal uncritical dogmaticians with one eye closed permanently to the bad and the other eye optimistically open to the good lean in to ensure for Islam a place at the table (that’s good) and then automatically, unknowingly, expand that space and increase the deference for Islam (that’s bad). Dogma may be foundational but it is fear that is formative.
fear

For source – click image

Trinity on Thursday

Trinity

Excerpt from Concise Theology
by J.I. Packer“This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator, who must be worshiped and loved exclusively (Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25). The New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5) but speaks of three personal agents, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring about salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.

The doctrine springs from the facts that the New Testament historians report, and from the revelatory teaching that, humanly speaking, grew out of these facts. Jesus, who prayed to his Father and taught his disciples to do the same, convinced them that he was personally divine, and belief in his divinity and in the rightness of offering him worship and prayer is basic to New Testament faith (John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15). Jesus promised to send another Paraclete (he himself having been the first one), and Paraclete signifies a many-sided personal ministry as counselor, advocate, helper, comforter, ally, supporter (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). This other Paraclete, who came at Pentecost to fulfill this promised ministry, was the Holy Spirit, recognized from the start as a third divine person: to lie to him, said Peter not long after Pentecost, is to lie to God (Acts 5:3-4).

So Christ prescribed baptism “in the name (singular: one God, one name) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—the three persons who are the one God to whom Christians commit themselves (Matt. 28:19). So we meet the three persons in the account of Jesus’ own baptism: the Father acknowledged the Son, and the Spirit showed his presence in the Son’s life and ministry (Mark 1:9-11). So we read the trinitarian blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14, and the prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:4-5 (would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as divine in the same sense as they are?). These are some of the more striking examples of the trinitarian outlook and emphasis of the New Testament. Though the technical language of historic trinitarianism is not found there, trinitarian faith and thinking are present throughout its pages, and in that sense the Trinity must be acknowledged as a biblical doctrine: an eternal truth about God which, though never explicit in the Old Testament, is plain and clear in the New.

The basic assertion of this doctrine is that the unity of the one God is complex. The three personal “subsistences” (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being “I” in relation to two who are “you” and each partaking of the full divine essence (the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two. They are not three roles played by one person (that is modalism), nor are they three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism); the one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. This is the truth about God that was revealed through the words and works of Jesus, and that undergirds the reality of salvation as the New Testament sets it forth.

The practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it requires us to pay equal attention, and give equal honor, to all three persons in the unity of their gracious ministry to us. That ministry is the subject matter of the gospel, which, as Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus shows, cannot be stated without bringing in their distinct roles in God’s plan of grace (John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15, and John’s expository comments, which NIV renders as part of the conversation itself, vv. 16-21). All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Wrath Cup

Cup-of-Gods-wrath

For image source – click image

Wrath Cup

Wrath Cup it be full up

it be held over us

we wait for it to fall

it be right to be so

 

Wrath Cup it be poured out

it be our cup

it soon drown us

it be right to do so

 

Wrath Cup – it miss us

it pass us

it still pour out

it fall to another

be it right to be so?

 

Wrath Cup – why, how, who?

Wrath Cup – justice pour it

Wrath Cup – mercy cause it to miss us

Wrath Cup – grace instead cause us peace

be it right to do so?

 

Wrath Cup – justice poured

Mercy Cup – wrath cup averted

Grace Cup – grace cup drunk

 

Original poem by Humble Donkey.

Please feel free to reproduce electronically for non commercial purposes and with a link to this blog post.

This poem was inspired by this piece of writing by Jeremy R. Treat which I am reading at the moment. Out of my depth but getting blessed.

“To be handed over to the Gentiles is to be handed over to the wrath of God (Lev 26 :32– 33, 38; Hos 8: 10 LXX; cf. Ps 106: 41; Ezra 9: 7). 57 Even more explicit is Jesus’ reference to his death as drinking “a cup,” a common Old Testament symbol of God’s wrath (Ps 11: 6; 75: 8; Hab 2: 16; Ezek 23: 31– 34), especially for the Isaianic new exodus (Isa 51: 17). Based on this context, Bolt is right to conclude that “the servant’s death . . . has exhausted the cup of God’s wrath on behalf of Israel. Jesus now predicts that, as the servant of the Lord, he will drink the cup of God’s wrath.”

The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology by Jeremy R. Treat     Kindle page 101

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GS084RW

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files

Over the next number of Tuesdays I am going to reblog a number of posts that respond to the pre-Christmas Newsweek slammathon on the Bible and Christianity. Although it was the pre-Christmas edition, it’s theme of ‘Christians and their everyday reading of the Bible stink, like really badly’, is not just for Christmas. It seems that it is for life.

The extensive Newsweek piece (8500 words – 14 pages), labelled by many as Newsweak because it was so badly researched, biased, unbalanced and unrepresentative of widely available credible scholarship is actaully a wonderful encapsulation of what a lot of people believe already. Typically this is because they’ve heard someone say the same sort of things many, many times before or read them somewhere like Newsweek – typically in the pre-Christmas or easter edition. Ever noticed that coincidence of the publishing industry.

So looking at thoughtful, thorough responses can be a useful exercise for the open-minded and edifying for the Christian believer.

Think

Before I link to a response to the piece, here is the link to the article which is available online by clicking here.

Go there, let it confirm some of your own thoughts, biases or whatever but then give New Testament scholar Michael Kruger a hearing by clicking his name. It’s part one of two responses by him. He is thoughtful, generous and corrective where he needs to be. Enjoy.

From The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable by Stephen D. Boyer & Christopher A. Hall  Baker Academic 2012  Page 121

God is not just tri-personal; he is expansively, creatively tri-personal. The triunity of God is something that unfolds and opens out, not something that curves in and closes down on itself. God’s intrinsic relational completeness, the unimaginable eternal intimacy between the Father and the Son in the Spirit, does not exclude other relations. The unquenchable divine joy that makes creation unnecessary also makes creation possible in the first place, for the love of Father, Son, and Spirit is in no way threatened or imperiled by flowing out beyond itself into a created world. ……. God is  love, and creation itself is the wholly free outpouring of that love, in generous, gratuitous, open-handed bounty, a bounty that is infinitely hospitable not because it needs us but simply because it is itself.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday

Husband to wife –

cries out in mock frustration,

“The things I absorb for love”.

“You think you are the only one who does such a thing”

says lovely, sharp as a razor, quick witted wife

“Why – you think other men have to do this also?” flies his retort

“Not others, me!”says wife.

“What are you absorbing for love?” comes his reply

“I am not telling, says she, then I wouldn’t be absorbing”

“Nice one!” says husband to wife.

 

An original poem by Humble Donkey.  Can be reproduced electronically without express permission so long as there is a link to this post.

Text Tuesday – Is the Bible limited to 66 books?

Before my blog-break last October I had been posting (mostly re-posting other people’s thoughtful work) on the text of the new testament in particular and the Bible in general.

I plan to occasionally do that again and today is such a day. Before re-posting Rob Phillips‘ work I will give some personal context. I dialogue infrequently with some great Muslim chaps and they do love to try and tear apart the New Testament as we have it today. Howver, their concerns and criticisms have lead me to investigate this important part of the Christian faith more deeply. Much of what convincingly speaks to me has been re-posted on the Tuesday Text series – see Textual Studies in the Categories on the right hand side of the screen if you want to see more.

six

Click image to source

However I love to refine my understanding and position on things as I go along. While I have regularly told muslim friends if an early letter by Paul or similar was found and could be authenticated I would be happy for it to be added to the New Testament (as such). This post has given me pause for thought on this matter. Over to you dear Baptist brother.

Rob Phillips: click here to get the source of this material

Some scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture — those 66 books that the church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: 1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable or 2) that early church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.

As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his book “Can We Still Believe the Bible?”: “… there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”

But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?

For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.

Should the church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.

The New Testament offers hints of the process of canonization, but little more. As Jesus prepares His followers for His passion and return to heaven, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will enable the disciples to remember Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26), testify further about Him (John 15:26) and proclaim truth (John 16:13).

In other words, the same Holy Spirit who authors Scripture will ensure that authentic testimonies about Jesus are written, preserved and shared.

Some New Testament books receive a great deal of scrutiny before their inclusion, most notably Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude and Revelation. And some don’t make the cut for a variety of reasons, such as the gnostic gospels of Judas, Barnabas and Thomas.

So, what criteria did the early church use as a guide? Blomberg notes three predominant requirements: apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy.

Apostolicity

This does not mean that every book is written by an apostle, but rather that each book is written during the apostolic age.

In addition, no book in the New Testament is more than one person removed from an apostle or another authoritative eyewitness of the life of Christ.

Mark, for example, is not an apostle, but he is a traveling companion of both Peter and Paul. Early church tradition attributes much of Mark’s Gospel to the memoirs of Peter.

Luke, in a similar manner, travels with Paul and interviews eyewitnesses of Jesus.

Catholicity

This has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” Catholicity means that believers throughout the world to which Christianity was spreading were in agreement on the value of these books –- and used them widely.

No books that were found only among one sect of Christianity or in a single geographical location are included in the New Testament canon.

Orthodoxy

This refers to the faithfulness of the books to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Blomberg writes, “It is a criterion that could not have developed if people had not recognized that the heresies afflicting the church in its earliest centuries were parasitic on orthodoxy. That is to say, the heresies developed in response to apostolic doctrine –- modifying it, challenging it, trying to refute it, supplementing it or simply rejecting it.”

By the late second century, we see lists of 20 to 22 books accepted as authoritative, increasing to 23 early in the third century, and finally to 27 by no later than AD 367, when Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, writes his Easter encyclical to the rest of the church and lists the books that Christians still accept today.

So, back to our original question: What if Paul’s earlier letter is discovered? While the letter would be instructive, and might pass the tests of apostolicity and orthodoxy, it would fail the test of catholicity. There is no evidence this letter was read widely in the early church.

The key is to remember that the Holy Spirit ultimately fixes the canon of Scripture. The tests of apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy do not determine which books are inspired; they simply help us discover them.

Friday Fundamentals – Part 1

Offense. Free speech. Sensitivities. Critique. Limits. Respect.

Fine-Line

For source – click image

There is a fine line between causing offense and intentionally causing offense. This fine line is not always recognised. Partly, because the incidental offence and intentional offense can seem very different things. But this is not so in practice and in partcular in practice over time. When you have caused offense once, usually incidentally – you did not mean to though you actual did – and you become aware of it, if you then choose to reiterate your propsotion or position and it causes offense again, you are then causing offense incidentally and intentionally to some degree. Because you are committed to your position and prize that and its free expression over the feelings of another being protected, you are now knowingly offending because you have to and choose to.

The broad gap between intention and non intention narrows and the fine line is now in place. Frequently, to those who are offended it as if it is not there at all. The distinctions are of no importance. You had a chance not to offend, perhaps by remaining silent or by changing your position but you didn’t. You failed to comply with anothers needs or demands. You cause offence knowingly (intentionally) because you still hold and re-state your position (incidental effect).

And so we see this tension played out in the world today – propositions portrayed (cartoons), offense caused, and cries of foul play, disrespect, dishonour and death can follow. That trajectory is not guaranteed. Thankfully, most of the offended (in the west)  just feel very hurt and outraged and hope compliance with their needs to become someone elses, even everyone elses priority. Precious few of the offended (in the west) reign death over the populace.

Reposition this last set of statements outside the west to somewhere like the middle east or generally any country where Islamic ideology and religion hold great sway and we see the hurt and outrage expressed much more potently resulting in a thousand ‘deaths’. Like a thousand cuts, each death looks different from another. Harassment, imprisonment, lashes, false or even truthful claims of blasphemy can lead to, you’ve guessed it, actual death. Be it hanging or be it beheading.

The level of moderation called for and displayed here in the west by the offended, should be applauded I guess – it certainly should not be taken for granted. It’s ironic  to see the self described religion of peace calling its faithful not to be violent in the face of offense. I guess it should rebrand itself the ‘religion of peace if things are going our way’. Certainly more honest but less attractive when sloganeering. But these calls for moderation are rarely seen in the Islamic-ish world. Ish is a word we use particularly in London to say kind of. For example, I had a friend who came from a kind of Amish background, so he was in fact Amish-ish. I am using the term Islamic-ish world because I have been educated so many times by thoughtful muslims that those countries where chaos and cruelty seems to rise up so quickly and engulf, swallow and literally destroy minority non muslim people and more recently people groups are not actually Islamic – or even Islamic-ish. “That person was not acting islamic / that group was not acting islamic / that country was not being islamic”. Islam gets to play the get out of jail free card again and again and again and ……

One is always asked to trust and believe that the Islamic vision, the western born or based muslim  desires and plans for, here in the UK for example, will look nothing like it looks in the muslim majority regions of the world. The non muslims here will be treated well, protected by and through Sharia; unlike the experience of non muslims in majority muslim countries. Being asked to trust this is a very big ask indeed. It seems clear that where big groups of muslim people get big power, the less powerful become the almost powerless, sometimes quickly but always certainly, over time.

What occurs in the muslim majority countries will occur here if the conditions allow it. How could it not? The primary condition is numbers. Simply numbers. Numbers and allegiance rule. Numbers and allegiance are ruling in France today – the secular free speech ideology currently reigns but what about tomorrow? Demography dictates destiny. Muslims in a very wonderful way think in spans of centuries. It matters little if the numbers in France are inadequate to influence or force sharia type compliance right now. The hope and intention for muslim leadership is that it will one day. The average muslim may not be so aware of this but it’s so obvious. All religions who draw their offspring immediately into their religion have a vested interest in ensuring the proliferation of offspring. Islam anyone? Roman Catholicism anyone?

As the numbers grow the powerful and abrasive rise and use fear, and force when fear fails, to ensure compliance – firstly within the faith community and then when the numbers are right, throughout the non-faith community.

Wherever the numbers are up, power is sought, held and used. And suffering follows. Proportionate to where one stands in relation to the ideology in power, is the harm that will befall them. Close and safe. Far and dangerous. No protection just punishment.

If you want to know what a western majority muslim country will look like for non muslims 20 years into its emergence – think Pakistan, think even Saudi. Sure it will be so different but it will be so terrible for the infidel. That’s you and me, probably. It’s supposed to be.

I am not trying to scare monger – at least not intentionally. Perhaps it’s incidental. People die everyday due to the emerging or some might say re-emerging Islamic desire to take hold, take power and takeover. Muslims are often the greatest victims in terms of numbers – for not being the right kind of muslim – the super compliant kind or the correct tribal kind. Next, it’s the non muslims – Christians and others. Particulary spiteful is the response to the most vulnerable of minorities,  the apostate – the leaver – of Islam. Now a Christian or a buddhist or an atheist. Now an embarrassment, a disgrace, a dishonour and invariably a death.

When you think about Islam – remember your lovely neighbour, the lovely shopkeeper, the lovely doctor but also remember to think globally and historically. Your lovely neighbour, shopkeeper and doctor will also have to think globally and historically at some stage, whether they want to or not. Someone, a particular type of muslim, is going to make them. Actually, they are currently seeking to make them. The challenges from the world’s most contradictory and conflicted religion are coming to all of us – muslims and infidels. We may just be able to discern this, but so many of our dear muslim friends seem incapable of comprehending that this is even possible. Not with Islam. Couldn’t be. Ce n’est pas possible. Full circle.

Trinity on Thursday

The Deep Things of God – how the Trinity changes everything (2010) Fred Sanders. Crossway.

Kindle Edition. (UK version Embracing the Trinity IVP)

God is first and foremost Father, Son and Holy Spirit for himself, not for us.(Kindle page 26)

A Christian and especially an evangelical Christian, is somebody who is already immersed in the reality of the Trinity, long before beginning to reflect on the idea of the Trinity. (Kindle page 26)

God is a magnificent Father. God is a magnificent Saviour, Jesus Christ. But if it were not for the magnificent Holy Spirit, I would stil be a wretched, hateful sinner! It is not enough to have a Father-God who loves and provides for me. It is not enough even to have a Saviour who died for my sins. For any of those blessings to make a difference in our lives, there must also be present in this world that Third Person of God, the Holy Spirit. (Kindle page 30)

The transformation in his life took place when he (Nicky Cruz) realised that the things described in the doctrine (of the Trinity) were things he was already in contact with. He knew Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit through their work in his life. The doctrine of the Trinity was the key to understanding that those three experiences belonged together because the God behind them was the one God, making himself known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit precisely because he eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Kindle page 32)

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday

Today I’m going to start a potentially short season of Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – a poem each Wrdnesday for as long as I can make it happen. I am not a poet but I enjoy expression through poetry. I increasingly like it as art form. To read and to write.

I have written other poems and posted them here on Humble Donkey – check the Categories on the right hand side and click Poetry to read more of them if you wish.

Also for those interested in the question who should be welcomed to the communion table at church, then check out my thoughts here The Table. Who’s it for?

SONY DSCCommunion

coming near to the coming near – communion

coming in to the incoming – communion

broken in by the inbreaking – communion

partaker in the partaking – communion

flesh remembering flesh – communion

eating and drinking remembering the eater and drinker – communion

grace received from the grace giver – communion

holy wooden table points to holy wooden cross – communion

presence with – communion

union – communion

Original poem by humbledonkey. Please feel free to publish this poem electronically, citing this humbledonkey post as the source. Thank you.

The easy Irish blasphemy

This peculiar Irish blasphemy is a wonder to behold. But never in a good way. A sure sign of a religion and a people floating adrift from their moorings. Uncontrolled, uncontested and unwanted.
irish scene cross

For source – click image

In the scripture, it says it is the name above every name, technically meaning the title Lord Jesus.

Phillipians 2:9 – 11 (NIV)

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

In Ireland outside of religious ceremony and devotional acts, the Holy name of Jesus ranks down there with every expletive known to man, rank, and filed alongside them; lyrically flowing from the melifluous tongue of the Irish man and woman. Class, employment, upbringing is no barrier to such streams of ironic injury to the divine honour. The name Jesus, Jesus Christ, is used every minute of every day across Ireland and the diaspora throughout the world. Its used instead of Wow! What? Agghh! and Noooo! The great and the good, the young and the old, the religious and the non-religious all misuse it. By misuse I mean they treat it like they don’t realise what they are doing who he is, how we should honour and relate and love him. Therefore it becomes this device of exclamation – almost like a four letter word functions for many also instead of  Wow! What? Agghh! and Noooo! Protestantism in Ireland perhaps is  the thin dam holding out against this gaelic pastime. This verbal blasphemy may not be entirely sanctioned, or even desired but it is rarely spoken against, cautioned about or educated on. And the uneducated adherent goes after every opportunity to blaspheme – like a ‘divil’.

Why? one wonders. I can’t say I really know except that in a land of apparent religious history, there is but the superstitious form of adherence to the Christian religion with precious little life flowing from its fountainhead. God. Imagine a great family, where the head of the family both deserves and demands deference. And yet no one values the name and by implication the nature of the name bearer. Such is the tattered relationship the Irish now have with their supposed family head. It is in many ways unbelievable. The supposed stewards of the name in Ireland – the roman catholic clergy – are sleeping their way through a fuzzy ritualistic co-dependency. They dare not challenge too hard or even at all – lest The Faith lose another ‘practitioner’.

The day of challenging or instructing is long gone. Regarding the name and the climate that prevented or challenged its misuse, that day left town on a limping mule at least 30 years ago. Instruction happens only for the young. The concrete is certainly set by late adolescence if not before. After that, next to nothing. External compliance and use of the Faith for milestones is all that is required and again the weight and gravitas of the stones are lessening.

I still haven’t answered why the Irish engage so blindly in this dark art because I don’t have an answer. The great theologian of Ireland, Terry Wogan, long departed from the lush green sod, once spoke about the appearance of trash talking the holy name. He proposed that this apparent blasphemy of the name of Jesus was widely misunderstood by outsiders, when in fact no such disrespect or devaluation was at work. I cannot remember his treatise entirely but I remember not thinking it much for carrying water then, and I suspect I wouldn’t change my mind if I heard it repeated.

Back then, I was an insider and practitioner of the sacrilegious art of trash-talking the name of Jesus and now I am an outsider by conversion, immersion and expulsion. The name and its namesake has taken its place, higher than any; wife, beloved, or friend in my life. I would not recklessly demean their titles and names and it is no different in regard to the Divine Word made flesh – Jesus. My wife is esteemed to me above all persons and her name above all human names. How much more is the name of and being of the Son of God.

However, the misuse, the casual exclamative as expletive use of the name of Jesus is a rite of passage for the Irish generally. It’s part of being a grown up. Like learning to swear and bit by bit introaducing strong/bad language into your public repertoire. Jesus – as a curse word. The one who flung stars into space, and whose hands were pierced for others – all of them sinners, many of them Irish, is disproportionately disrespected daily by my beloved countrymen. A beautiful people, everyone a poet of some sort, a jester, a Samaritan of the good kind, are beset with the compulsive reflex of spitting on the name of their only hope – the True Saviour, the True King, the One who bears the name above every name – The Lord Jesus Christ.
The Irish are a lovely people. May the tender Lord come and speak life to them and may they look upon his face and weep with joy for his kindness, his beauty, his patience and his love and may they repent and believe. Amen.

Music on a monday

Dear, dear Humbledonkey readers – sorry for taking so long to get back in the game and for the December false start –  I actually thought I had cancelled both of those random posts.

Here’s why I have been away:

My Dad passed away in October 2014 and all my energies since have gone on the daily/weekly task of living and surviving, working and being. Bereavement is the funniest thing. Even on your best days, you only have access to so much mental energy. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Blogging requires an abundance of mental energy.

Here’s why I am back.

I like blogging, it helps me get a handle of my own thoughts. And I missed  it. I also have a little more mental energy available – not a lot. It’s a bit risky, certainly, but hey what’s the worst that can happen?

So let’s start with some music that is timely and timeless. Timely in that it is a tune to the New Year’s anthem, Auld Lang Syne but these new words by Dunstin Kensrue speak of the timeless eternal Son of the Eternal Father, who created time, entered time, submitted to it, lived, died and rose triumphant o’er the grave and time itself and now lives forever more – the first of a new generation. The resurrected ones.

Enjoy the music, thanks for the warm thoughts and have a good day. More again tomorrow.