Monday, 7 July 7777

Welcome to the Musing Monk's blog

I have written extensively about various issues, particularly in the homosexuality debate.

The best way to find these is to use the "tag cloud" on the right to choose your keywords.

All are welcome here, even those who disagree.  My only request is that comments remain courteous and respectful of others.

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God bless

MM

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Village Library

A local village was home to famous person who was known for lots of good works. 

Over time, the villagers decided to create a library of works to celebrate this person and their relationship with the village. They asked respected artists, poets, story tellers, historians etc. to put together works that would tell the story of this person and their relationship with the village. 

All works were carefully scrutinised by a committee, who ensured that the works all accurately reflected this person and/or their relationship with the village, while respecting the creative freedoms to explore the relationship in different ways. 

People in the village insisted that they felt the spirit of that person, even though they weren't physically there anymore. Those who participated in the project were all inspired by this spirit and felt a deep connection. 

For example, one artist chose to write a love story, where they depicted this person as a handsome young man, singing praise and adoration over his fiancĂ©e. 

Another story teller chose to depict a battle, where the person protected the village from harm, and repelled the invaders. 

A local historian decided to tell a story about this person's birth, where they were born, who attended, what it was like to be the parents, and so on. 

These collected works were put together in the middle of the village in a magnificent library, for all the world to see and enjoy.

They tell a story of one person and their relationship with the village, but invite us all to consider our own relationship with this person, including the challenge of thinking our village might be bigger than we think.

That's how I see the Bible. Who wrote the Bible? The story tellers, the historians, the poets. 

Who inspired the Bible? The Spirit of God. 

What does the Bible tell us? A million stories that point to Jesus Christ and his love for all creation.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Language and Metaphor, Part 3 (Salvation and Repentance)

PART 3 – Salvation and Repentance

In Steve Chalkes’s book The Lost Message of Jesus, he tells of the autobiography of the Jewish historian, aristocrat and young roman officer Flavius Josephus.  He was on a mission to quell a revolt of Judean revolutionaries.  He tells of his meeting with the head of this band of rebels and he uses the expression “repent and believe in me.” (If you want to read more about this – do an online search for 'Josephus repent and believe in me').

In my NIV 1st Century study Bible notes (Kent Dobson) there is a fascinating note in the story of Paul bringing his jailor to faith in Acts 16.  The Roman Emperors promised “salvation” by which they meant the pax romana (the Roman peace and rule).

When Paul talks of the Armour of Faith in Ephesians 6, it is believed he was writing from prison in Rome.  Paul will have been staring at roman soldiers in full armour on a daily basis.

While many read Ephesians 6 as a call to spiritual warfare, which on one level it is, I think Paul is systematically UNDRESSING the roman soldier.  We are replacing the warlike pieces of armour with spiritual aspects – truth, righteousness, spiritual readiness, knowledge of God’s peace.  Likewise, when Paul and Jesus talk of salvation, they are borrowing concepts from the (Roman empire) culture around to show a different way.

What do these points mean to me?  The life of a Christian is being contrasted to culturally relevant concepts of the day (just as the Old Testament uses culturally relevant concepts of those days).  The metaphor and analogy, rich in meaning and application, can be completely lost when we turn them into limited literal concepts (like someone misunderstanding the metaphor: butter wouldn’t melt, which is a statement about perceived innocence, and nothing to do with dairy products). 

In today’s 21st Century, at least in our secular Western world, we don’t usually talk about salvation by living under a political regime.  We don’t tell criminals to repent and follow another way.   Only in religious circles do we really talk about “sinners” (in fact, sinful is now used as a positive word for fun in many contemporary circles).  Those are known as religious concepts.

And yet, our theology has engraved these words in what feels like tablets of stone.  Repent, bow the knee to Christ, receive salvation... from hell (not from a life on a rubbish dump outside of a community of safety and love).  I can fully comprehend why atheism is on the rise when they read concepts of God’s wrath, a need to repent to achieve salvation and the threat of an eternity in hell.  These concepts might have meant a world of difference to their original audiences, but today they speak a foreign language and alienate listeners.

Perhaps our role is that of Paul in the temple of Athens, in Acts 17 when he sees the altar to An Unknown God.  Paul made that God known to the people around, but in terms that made sense to them.   He used their own poets to connect their stories to his.  Perhaps we need to rediscover the skill of Paul and the art of Jesus, of making God’s love known in this world, with its language, its metaphor and its needs?  I would argue that some concepts of sin, repentance, salvation and hell do little to help this love be known.   Rather than reintroduce Roman Empire concepts, might our challenge be to find new metaphors for the gospel?  As John says (John 3:17) Jesus did not come to condemn this world but to save it through him.

How to we share this amazing message that God loves all creation and has defeated death, and that nothing can separate us from his love, in the 21st Century?

You can read Part 1 (Fear of God) here: https://musingmonk.blogspot.com/2020/05/language-and-metaphor-part-1-fear-of-god.html

You can read Part 2 (Hell and Gates of Hell) here: https://musingmonk.blogspot.com/2020/05/language-and-metaphor-part-2-hell-and.html