Thursday, October 23, 2008

Atheists Going Public

You may or may not have heard about the British Humanist Society's plans to begin advertising on buses with the catchy slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." It's an interesting development within the larger debate that's been rumbling on for some time now - whether or not faith is a public or private matter. I'm a passionate advocate for the place of faith in public life. Privatized beliefs are utterly pointless, I mean, why bother believing anything if it has no connection to the way you live your life and if it isn't worth sharing with someone else? Books like the God Delusion and poster campaigns like this one (which probably doesn't even need to run now as it's attracted so much publicity already) bring the God conversation into the public realm and I love that. Faith is such a deliciously juicy subject to discuss and that's why it drives me nuts that it's too taboo to bring up in polite conversation. If only people could get beyond their cultural conditioning that schools them to resist any situation in which their worldview might be challenged. Pesky memes, they spoil all the fun.

For an interesting look at the 'Probably' bit of this poster see my review of the book 'Deluded By Dawkins'.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Post-Charismatic? - review

For the last couple of weeks this book has had me hooked. Post-Charismatic? covers a colourful spectrum of well-researched material mostly drawn from the last 100 years or so of Charismatic experience. There are laugh out loud stories of early Pentecostals who, having just begun to speak in tongues, jumped on boats to far flung destinations only to find out that the cultures to whom they felt called had absolutely no idea what they were saying. There are serious exposés of a number of key 'Charismaniacs' examining their dubious theological tenets, wild prophetic machinations and disturbing manipulations of the faithful. And amidst all this there's a consistent focus on learning from mistakes and looking hopefully towards the future. This isn't an angry book, quite the opposite - it's hugely gracious. It's tone is probably best summed up in this little section from the prologue,
"...many post-charismatics... find it too difficult, or too emotionally exhausting, to sort through all the practices and teachings and discern the good from the bad. They simply withdraw and consider that chapter of their lives closed."
By the end of the book it's apparent that the people in this category are probably Rob's primary audience. This is why he structures the book in two clear halves; the first a headlong plunge into the present mess of the Charismatic Church and the second a valiant effort to describe a way by which the bored, the confused and the hurting can enjoy again a relationship with the Triune - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the closing pages he admits that 'post-charismatic' is far too limited and loaded a term to do justice to this new possibility and so he borrows a phrase from a blogging friend: charismissional. I quite like it.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mike Frost in Oxford

Early this morning a bunch of us drove down to Oxford to hear Mike Frost (author of 'Exiles' and 'The Shaping Of Things To Come'). Mike is one of the world's foremost writers and thinkers on Incarnational Mission so the potential for new learning was very high. It was a long way to go for a day conference but it was well worth the drive. His morning session was basically the best presented case I've ever heard for why and how church as we currently know it must change - and fast.
He summarised church as consisting of 4 basic elements: worship, community, formation and mission. His next observation was that whilst each of these elements is vital, one of them has, throughout the Christendom era, acted as the 'organising principle' of the others. That element is worship. Then, for the rest of the morning he went on to describe what church might look like in our Post-Christendom world if we re-oriented around mission as our 'organising principle'. What really set this session apart were the many examples taken from his own church (or 'faith collective' as he cheekily referred to it) which goes by the name of 'Small Boat Big Sea', as well as a whole bunch of stories from his mission buddies around the world.
Perhaps the one thought that impacted me the most came during his exploration of the Mission Dei, the self-sending God, who he described as having a 'human-shaped hole' in his heart. That possibility had never stuck me before, but I instantly got it.
Nice one Mike, hope you have a safe trip back to Oz ;-)

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