Monthly Archives: October 2008

Varnish

We had bought a ‘Meal Deal’ in Boot’s, on our way to lunch in the park. There was one more item that Debbie placed on the counter for the woman who was salaried to scan bar codes. Nail varnish.

“It’s for my husband,” she said loudly for effect.

She was right. For the first (and hopefully the last) time in my life, I needed to buy nail varnish.

Why? Had I decided to become an aging Goth or New Romantic? Absolutely not. I may be part of a profession that is mocked for having ‘men in dresses’, but this wasn’t a matter of make-up.

It was all to do with allergies. Recently, I had developed red, peeling skin on my wrist, under where I wear my watch. My sister had looked at it and declared it was allergic dermatitis. The gold plating was wearing off the watch, exposing nickel. It appears I have a nickel allergy. I’ve added that to my collection of other allergies: to the adhesive in sticking plasters (I use Micropore), and to antihistamines (they don’t just make me drowsy, they make me depressed; I choose cough medicines carefully).

You will gather I found the whole experience embarrassing. I have known about the allergy for two or three weeks now, and the suggested solution of coating the exposed nickel with the nail varnish. Thoughts of going to a chemist’s and buying some (“It’s not for me, it’s for my wife”) have so filled me with dread that I have been keeping my watch in a trouser pocket for a fortnight.

Not even the encouraging story I heard about guitarists wearing nail varnish to strengthen their nails for plucking steel strings pushed me into action. Besides, it must be ten years since I got my guitar out in an attempt to learn to play it.

Embarrassment is a huge hurdle for many of us. How much of that is a British cultural perspective, I don’t know. But embarrassment is an efficient producer of inertia. It is also a powerful social stigmatiser. The fear of mockery prevents many from doing what they believe to be right.

How potent it was when Paul talked about being ‘fools for Christ’. One major issue for Christians is the courage to overcome the fear and risk appearing fools. Not in the sense that we sometimes back outright stupidity, but in the risk of unpopularity.

Getting the balance right can be difficult. I found that tonight when a mother and daughter called at the door to do Trick Or Treat. I gave the girl some sweets, and she looked at four-year-old Mark, who doesn’t understand it yet. “He’ll do it when he’s older,” she said.

I smiled and said as gently as I could, “Maybe not.” 

It wasn’t the time for an extended conversation, but I simply indicated to the mother that it was a matter of religious conviction for us, and hoped I didn’t sound judgmental.

She apologised for causing offence, and I moved quickly to say that I wasn’t offended and I hadn’t expected her to know. I hope they left on good terms with us, but I also hope I was clear about our beliefs without being condemning. Too often in my life I have tipped to one end of the see-saw or the other, either fiercely denouncing something or ending up compromising my beliefs out of a desire to be on good terms with folk.

May God help us to risk embarrassment with grace.

About these ads

Ubuntu

Thought I’d put out a couple of help requests here, which I’ve also posted at Ubuntu Forums. (If you want to find me there, the user name is ‘davefaulkner’.) But I thought I’d mention them here, in case any techie readers can help.

The back story is this. I’ve given up the idea of trying to get a dual-boot computer between Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux. (Despite checking the MD5SUM, Ubuntu has never installed properly on the hard drive.)

So I decided that since I wanted to experiment with Linux, I’d run it inside Sun’s VirtualBox 2.0.4. Well, it installs fine, and runs fairly fast in much less memory than Vista – surprise, surprise. But there are a few problems:

1. I can’t get any sound – e.g., if watching a video on YouTube. Error messages tell me I might need a Gstreamer plugin. I’ve googled ‘Gstreamer’, but the results are not the sort that a newbie to these things can understand.

2. Ubuntu only shows up in a monitor resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. It won’t detect my monitor (a Dell 1907FP Digital, if you’re interested). The card is an NVidia GeForce 7900 GS. So I’m stuck with a ridiculously small window for a 19-inch monitor. It’s useless for looking at most websites, for example. I need 1280 x 1024 or at very least 1024 x 768. I also can’t change the refresh rate from 61 Hz. 

I dearly want to like Linux and have a usable alternative for the times when Vista increases my rate of hair loss. I understood Ubuntu was about the most user-friendly, but these are not the problems I’d even expect to encounter with badly behaved Microsoft products.

If anyone has any constructive ideas, please leave a comment, or email my ‘personal’ or ‘backup’ email addresses as listed on the Contact page of this blog.

Thanks.

Election

Not being American, it’s pointless to a degree my expressing a preference between John McCain and Barack Obama. Except that the winner will be so influential on the UK and the world that it matters.

So I was pleased to read this open letter from James Emery White to whoever the victor is. It is the measure of a Christian attitude. It is so different from what I have read elsewhere from some Christians. Take Focus On The Family Action’s hysteria-inducing hypothetical letter imagining what the USA would look like in 2012 after the first term of an Obama presidency. (One reaction has been a bipartisan Facebook group opposing it.) Or whole blogs like Ohnobama. Or the incredible nonsense that Sarah Palin prophetically is Esther.

Now I’m aware that all the stuff I’ve denounced above is from one particular camp – the religious right. I know that filth exists on the left, too. Certainly Palin (while she cannot be a modern-day Esther – who was the king and who were the other concubines? :)) has been the victim of misrepresentation of her faith. One article on Huffington Post comes to mind. It is a mixture of genuine research and tangential ‘guilt by association’ insinuation.

And I know too that none of this should be surprising. It exposes the gulf between claims that people want high office in order to serve others and the reality that it is a grab for power. If you want power for yourself or whoever you support, you’ll adopt a ‘by any means necessary’ approach. 

Nor is this about a Brit wanting to have a go at Americans. Whatever our more reserved characters, we know enough about aggressive politics. PMQ, anyone? And neither Biden nor Palin have ‘done a Prescott':

And my complaint isn’t about wanting to treat politics as if it doesn’t matter. It does. Christians can’t disregard it. Just concentrating on evangelism and dismissing a so-called ‘social gospel’ is sub-biblical.

Surely as Christians we can model something different for the world, where we are passionate about what we believe, even when we differ among ourselves, yet do so with humility and love. It seems to me that James Emery White’s tone models such a spirit.

I can sympathise with some of the reservations about Obama. I find his stance on abortion awful. (Although if I am to be pro-life – and I am – then that extends after the womb and takes in issues such as war and poverty, too.) I also have concerns about McCain. His tax proposals appear to favour the wealthy. (Yet on the other hand I think his stance as a Republican on green issues is noteworthy.) So it’s easy to see why Christians with particular areas of concern gravitate strongly for or against a particular candidate.

What, then, has made many Christian voices so indistinct in tone from secular ones? We have a regular problem in the church of being squeezed into the world’s mould, as J B Phillips put it. But are there particular factors either causing or exacerbating the situation?

I suspect that at least as far as the religious right is concerned, we ought to take a look at the ‘prophetic movement’. It’s been in play for several years, and led to the view that George W Bush was God’s anointed, and woe betide any Christian who disagreed. A British Christian friend of mine who works in the States with a charity that is developing drug treatments for people with AIDS couldn’t believe just how true the picture was of evangelical alignment with the Republican Party.

Yet that wasn’t going on so much a few months ago in this campaign, if I understand correctly. Disgruntlement with how McCain viewed certain issues dear to the Christian right’s agenda meant was surely a major reason why evangelical and fundamentalist churches weren’t holding voter registration drives with such enthusiasm this time. My hunch, watching from a few thousand miles away, is that it all changed when McCain announced Sarah Palin has his running mate. Not seeing that McCain surely thought of her for pragmatic reasons: he needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat so as to bring a major Republican constituency into the voting booth, suddenly Palin was the person God had kept everyone waiting for. No wonder ‘prophetic words’ began to flow. (And, please note, I believe in prophetic words. But I also believe in testing them.)

Is it part of a lust to believe we are living in times that are comparable to biblical ones, and therefore they have to be graded as such by prophecies? Are these things some kind of sign taken to mean that we are in some sense more faithful to biblical spirituality? Are we just not content to get on with days of small things (Zecharaiah 4:10) and be faithful in a few things (Matthew 25:21, 23)?

Put this approach together with the ‘grab for power’ I mentioned earlier and we have a flammable combination that leads Christians to spend more time ‘praying against’ rather than the ‘praying for’ which White exemplifies.

I don’t wish to make it sound like White’s is the only sane voice around. That would be arrogant and ignorant. It didn’t take too long to find this sane post from Rob Harrison, a Christian Republican, arguing moderately in favour of the Grand Old Party, expressing deep reservations about Obama and explaining why he thinks Hillary Clinton would have been a better Democratic candidate. From a different stable comes Jim Wallis’ post, ‘My Personal ‘Faith Priorities’ for this Election‘. (Wallis has also called on James Dobson to apologise for the ‘2012 letter’.) I know Wallis is technically independent, but most of his faith priorities lean in Obama’s direction.

So it’s galling to keep hearing the nonsense when there are thoughtful voices in the debate. Somewhere a big section of us in the church has lost a grip on servant leadership and that we see through a glass darkly, not clearly.

There is something to be said for Derek Webb‘s view that you’ll never find ‘A Savior On Capitol Hill’

even if I don’t share what sounds like a cynicism in the lyrics towards all politicians. Nevertheless, it is a timely warning for all those who offer Barack Obama semi-messianic adulation or who see John McCain (but really Sarah Palin?) as God’s anointed.

Is it too late to hope for more Christlike tone as well as content to Christian contributions regarding the election, both in terms of an increase in quantity and a greater prominence to the careful voices that are in danger of being drowned out? It’s so close to the end of the campaign that for anyone to say this now is humanly a forlorn hope. I’d like to think it might be different in four years’ time. For that to happen, the church will have to have been chastened. That might mean a whole run of failed ‘prophecies’, but it would take a lot for even that to lead to repentance in some circles. My fear is that even something that goes against the grain will just lead to a reframing of them.

But you never know. We might learn humility one day.

Golf

Golf is one of those sports I find thoroughly boring. (Unlike cricket, which is subtle, tactical, and brain-engaging. Really.)

But crazy golf is different, and little Mark discovered a love for it on our summer holiday. So today – while his sister got taken to Colchester Zoo by friends – we took him to a nine-hole crazy golf course in Chelmsford. Somebody on another website had labelled it ‘the world’s least crazy crazy golf course’, but were we deterred? No!

It was less fun to arrive and find the entrance to the free car park blocked by a tractor and some traffic cones. That meant parking across the other side of Waterhouse Lane in Meteor Way, a cost of three pounds. Thankfully, when Debbie told the guy at the course our story he knocked that off our charges.

Then we set off to find the course. As soon as we found it, we had to agree with the other website: it is the world’s least crazy crazy golf course. I managed a couple of rough pictures on my phone. Here’s one: 

It shows Mark in action, and what you see corresponds with the photo on the other site. It’s the – er, exciting hole. For a little lad like him, the lack of windmills, houses and other obstructions didn’t matter. He was a picture of happiness as he took his child-sized putter and tapped his ball from start to finish of each hole. Well, almost to the finish. After about half a dozen ‘shots’, he generally picked up the ball and threw it in the hole. We let him play on his own – he is an introvert like his Dad – and it wasn’t long before he was lapping his parents as if he were not Padraig Harrington but Lewis Hamilton.

So is a little four-year-old boy easily pleased? Maybe. But isn’t it also a lesson in simplicity? Like some drug addiction, we adults want more, bigger, better, faster. Yet a small boy can take a simple pleasure and find great joy. I think it’s something for us to chew on, when we talk about simple lifestyle.

Introverts

So true – An Introvert’s Lexicon. Via Brother Maynard.

Kitchen

So we’re in Café Rouge having a lovely family lunch out, when Mark, our four-year-old, wanders off with his glass of apple juice.

“What are you doing, Mark?”

“I’m going to the kitchen.”

Poor lad. He had assumed that he needed to take his empty glass, plate and cutlery to the kitchen, just like at home. The idea that a waiter would come and collect it for him, while he needed to do nothing, hadn’t clicked, no matter how many other times we’d been out for meals.

Maybe he’s like many of us. We can’t believe that God will come and do something for us. We have to do it. And we fail to understand grace and integrate it into our personalities. At best we think God should be paid, just as (indirectly) our waiter was today. What a difference that is from the gratitude and love God longs to draw from our hearts.

Reading

It’s half term, and I’m taking this week on leave. Daytime, I shall be having time with the kids, of course. We’ve been exchanging Tesco Clubcard vouchers for money off ten pin bowling and a meal at Café Rouge.

But in the evening, I’m beginning to delve into some newly arrived books. Yes, they are all Theology, and that might seem a strange choice when I’m away from ‘work’, but few things restore me like a dose of good reading. (Yes, I am an introvert, if you hadn’t guessed.) Here is what those nice people at Amazon and The Book Depository have sent me lately:

Eugene Peterson, The Word Made Flesh: Peterson explores the issue of language as a spiritual concern by examining the parables of Jesus in Luke’s so-called ‘Travel Narrative’ and in some of his prayers.

Klyne R Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: I love the parables of Jesus, and this looks like being the standard work for the next several years. A few months ago, Scot McKnight was raving about it. Then Paul Beasley-Murray did the same in Ministry Today. Already, I’m hooked. He has a subtle, multivalent treatment of the parables. For years I’ve loved Craig Blomberg‘s book Interpreting The Parables, because he so thoroughly took to pieces the anti-allegory school and gave a brilliant history of schools of biblical interpretation. However, it was beginning to feel a bit simplistic in some of its expositions. I think Snodgrass will bring the subtlety.

Colin Greene and Martin Robinson, Metavista: What do we do, mission-wise, after postmodernity? Greene and Robinson are sketching a vision. I met Greene five years ago on a Bible Society course at Lee Abbey, but I’ve never previously read his books. I was pondering buying this one when I saw him interviewed by Alan Roxburgh on the Allelon website. That convinced me.

Christopher J H Wright, The Mission Of God: another Scot McKnight rave. Eleven or twelve years ago, I bought Wright’s commentary on Deuteronomy, in which he interprets the book missiologically. Later, I bought his exposition of Ezekiel, which attempts something similar. This is his magnum opus, bringing together his skills as a biblical scholar and his past experience as the Principal of a missionary training college. Wright argues that the whole Bible is a missionary document. I believe this will be required reading for all of us concerned with the ‘missional’ approach. It promises to be the most important work of missiology since the late David Bosch‘s Transforming Mission.

Ben Witherington III, The Letters To Philemon, The Colossians, And The Ephesians – A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles: I’ve bought several of BW3’s commentaries in the last year or so. I’ve been looking for something to complement and contrast Andrew Lincoln‘s majestic Word Biblical Commentary on Ephesians. Witherington is a prolific, eloquent and brilliant writer. 

Richard Burridge, Imitating Jesus – An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics: For someone whose calling involves helping people with ethical decisions, I don’t read as much as I should on ethics, although I’m indebted to Changing Values by David Attwood and The Moral Quest by the late Stanley Grenz. Burridge is flavour of the month in some circles I know, not least in Chelmsford, where he gave a Holy Week lecture earlier this year. Not long ago I reviewed his commentary on John’s Gospel, which was superb. This too has been well reviewed, again not least by my friend Paul Beasley-Murray. I had a quick dip into his section on Paul and homosexuality, and while not everything Burridge said convinced me, he said enough to shed new light for me on this painful debate.

I won’t read all these books cover to cover. Some will just go straight on the shelf for reference. In the case of others (e.g., Snodgrass) I shall read the introductory chapters before squeezing them into my statutory thirty yards of bookshelving in this study.

Have any of you read any of these titles? What did you think of them?

What are you reading, or have you read recently, that you would recommend?

I would be fascinated to know.

Fleeced

As I drew up in the drive after an afternoon of pastoral visiting, I knew what had happened. Rebekah was dancing around at the top of the drive. It could mean only one thing. That wobbly tooth had gone. At last she had lost her first baby tooth. The tooth fairy would be swooping into action tonight.

Not that she had the tooth. It had disappeared somewhere between school and the shoe shop. Somehow the wingèd dispenser of monetary compensation for missing molars would need to receive this urgent message.

Of more concern was the level of financial recompense for that first tooth. We had been led to believe that the current exchange rate was one pound per tooth. However, that was before Tanyel’s mum had run out of change.

Tanyel is one of Rebekah’s classmates. When she lost her first tooth, Mum was out of coins. She only had paper money. Thus it came to pass that Tanyel received five – yes, five – of our finest British pounds for her milk tooth. And the good news had spread all around the class. Yea verily the golden coins tumbled out of my wallet into the envelope Debbie had decorated, accompanied by some text she had found on a website.

So make what you will of this story. How natural it is for children to share good news quickly. Or how dumb and soft we were as parents. Take your pick.

Questions

Matthew 22:34-46

Mark’s favourite word at present is ‘Why?’ We had heard that all children go through a ‘Why?’ phase. Mark’s, however, is different from what other parents have generally told us. It isn’t a case of ‘Why must I do that?’ or ‘Why not?’ It’s more academic. He deploys ‘Why?’ to ask questions about the world. And when we’ve answered why one thing happens, he asks why that is so. Relentlessly he pushes back our logic, sucking our brains dry. On Friday afternoon in the car, he wouldn’t stop in his quest to know more about speed cameras. I am convinced that one day soon, we’ll have to explain the Big Bang to him. And questions are at the heart of our Lectionary Gospel reading today. The Pharisees send a lawyer to ask Jesus a question. Jesus asks the Pharisees a question. Furthermore, it’s the climax to a series of questions between Jesus and his critics. Questions – and how we handle them – are vital in spiritual growth.

So today I want as much to explore the use of questions in general as I do the particular questions in this exchange.

People Questioning Jesus 
There are all sorts of reasons, good and bad, for asking Jesus or God a question. The Virgin Mary asked a question of the Archangel Gabriel when he turned up with his world-shattering news of her pregnancy. However, it was a question allied to a spirit of obedience to God. When we question out of a desire to pursue our faith and discipleship further, that is a good thing. 

Job questioned God as a result of his suffering. He didn’t get an answer to this question about why he as an innocent person suffered. He only learned that, yes, innocent people do suffer. And although he receives a kind of rebuke from God, he is nevertheless rewarded for a faith that is not contradicted by asking hard questions.

Even the lawyer in this story might have had good intentions. In Mark’s account of this story (which is most likely Matthew’s source), Jesus commends him for not being far from the kingdom of God. Yet in Matthew, he is just out to test Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees (verses 34-45). Was he a stooge of the Pharisees? We don’t know.

What we do know is that the Pharisees had unholy reasons for questioning Jesus. Matthew is only interested in noting this sense of conflict, where the Pharisees not only think they can put one over Jesus, they are keen to succeed where their rivals the Sadducees failed (verse 34). Their motives are not good. This is all about pride and putting one over their opponents.

When I first studied Theology, it was among Anglican ordinands. I had more theological knowledge than some of them, due to my Local Preacher training. There were two occasions during early lectures when I asked questions of the tutors, less to learn and more to show off. Once it was when a New Testament lecturer was giving an outline of Luke’s Gospel, and I made sure everyone knew I realised that Luke gave a special place to women. The other was in an Old Testament class, where the tutor recommended a particular Bible atlas and I said, “Oh, the one you edited?” They were unworthy moments and I am ashamed of them.

If we are not careful, we might ask questions that are less to do with wanting to draw nearer to Christ and more to do with pride. They might involve puffing up ourselves and putting others down. Before we question Jesus, it is worth questioning ourselves. What are our motives? Do I ask out of humility, a desire to learn and if necessary a spirit of repentance? If so, I am asking a question in such a way that spiritual growth has a real chance to happen.

But if I want to show off in front of others, or if I am deluded enough to think that with my intellect I can impress God, then the chances of growth are less than zero. Indeed, to have such concerns is to show no interest in growing in grace.

What, then, of the actual question here? The lawyer asks for one ‘greatest commandment’, but Jesus gives him two. Jesus won’t be confined by our questions. Sometimes we ask the wrong questions. 

Let me make brief observations about each of his two ‘great commandments’. With regard to the first commandment, I find it interesting to read this passage in a week when we have heard about the first atheist advertising ever to appear on London buses. One of its most prominent supporters and financial backers is – surprise, surprise – Richard Dawkins. In supporting the campaign, he was stupid enough to say this:

“This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Thinking is anathema to religion? What he surely means is, you haven’t thought unless you’ve come to the same conclusions as me. Sixth Form arrogance. Against that background, I read Jesus saying that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The word ‘mind’ is additional to the original (although the Hebrew will have implied that the total person is involved in loving God). I cannot find God by thinking, but I can dedicate my thinking to God as an act of loving worship. Be trusting of God, but the Sunday School song never said, ‘Jesus wants me for a zombie’.

The second commandment is about love of neighbour. One of the problems with the atheist bus campaign – along with religious advertising, too – is that it reduces everything to slogans. That’s exactly what Jesus doesn’t do. The proof of his ‘campaign’ to love God is not a slogan. Proof comes in love of neighbour. 

In early September, the American ministry journal Leadership has this poll on its website:

When it comes to evidences of true worship at your church, which of the following do you pay most attention to?

  • People singing enthusiastically.
  • People praying fervently.
  • People fully attentive to the sermon.
  • People coming for confession or prayer afterward.
  • People committing or recommitting themselves to Christ.
  • People serving others during the week.
  • People so captivated that they invite others to join them at church.

Other: click here to let us know what indicates to you that people are worshiping

Much as I like enthusiastic singing, fervent prayer and close attention to the sermon, I can’t understand any measurement of true Christian love that is less than a measurement of action that happens afterwards. People who put their faith into practice after church – they can ask questions.

Jesus Questioning People
In my early years as a Christian, a popular slogan was ‘Jesus is the answer’. There was a famous song with that title by the gospel singer Andraé Crouch. It’s a comforting song about the hope troubled people can find in Christ, and of course I believe that.

However, I have come to believe also that it is just as true to say that ‘Jesus is the question’. He didn’t always spoon-feed his listeners. He told parables that would only make sense to the spiritually curious and committed. 

And in this passage, Jesus questions his critics. He throws in a theological conundrum. It’s a little biblical hand-grenade that is meant to blow apart their preconceived ideas, their limited vision and their prejudices. In summary, it’s this: if the Messiah is the son of David (as was commonly accepted), how can David call one of his own descendants ‘Lord’ (verses 41-45)? The problem was that in Jewish tradition a father could not call his son ‘Lord’. Yet here was Scripture saying just that. And if it were true, what possible grounds could there be for denying the Lordship of the Messiah? And if Jesus were the Messiah, what would that mean for the Pharisees’ treatment of him?

To change the metaphor, it’s checkmate to Jesus (verse 46).

And Jesus is still about the business of asking questions as a means of either eliciting spiritual growth or letting people confirm the hardness of their hearts. Sometimes, we are seeking his guidance and he doesn’t appear to be answering. That may be because he is making us wait for an answer, but is it also possible we are not hearing what he is saying? So set are we on receiving an answer that will make everything fit into place that we miss what he is saying. Instead of giving us an answer, Jesus replies with a question. 

Not only that, it’s something Jesus calls his followers to do, too. Take the rôle of the minister, for example. One traditional expectation of a minister is that this is the person who will dream the big dreams, see the great visions and impart them to the congregation. One Anglican rector friend told me he believed his job was to be like Moses coming down from Sinai with the tablets of stone.

But what if that isn’t the minister’s calling? Suppose instead the minister invites people to engage their situation with a holy imagination? That may be more effective, because it will help call forth what God is already doing in the midst of the congregation.

Or take the rather modern preoccupation that the exposition of Scripture in a sermon or Bible Study group is meant to be a way of reading answers off the page to today’s dilemmas, or coming up with a set of biblical principles on how to make life work. Is that right? Might it not be more faithful to the Bible if instead the minister preaches the great story of Scripture to the people, saying, this is ‘the story we find ourselves in‘. If that is the case, then how do we see our world? [Source for last 3 paragraphs]

If we allow Jesus to question us, he might shake up some of our cherished beliefs and practices. Those moments when we sense a discomfort, that something doesn’t quite fit – those are times when we might well need to be especially attentive to the voice of Christ. Is he asking us a question that will take us on a journey into deeper biblical faithfulness and away from those human traditions which have become unhelpful?

I believe Jesus is asking us big questions about our fitness for mission in today’s world. Do our structures, traditions, practices and even some of our cherished doctrines which we clam to have ‘received’ fit with a biblical reflection on where we are today? I for one am not sure they do, and I believe Jesus may be asking us awkward questions.

But then that’s just the sort of thing that might preoccupy me as a minister. For others, it might be other questions. He might be asking many people about their place, situation and calling in life. The spiritual writer Frederick Buechner observed that our call is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. If some of us are misfits on those grounds, then is Jesus asking us challenging questions about where we might best serve him? Has Jesus given us a passion for something that we are not using? If not, then what questions might he be asking us?

The alternative to Jesus asking us questions is simply for him to give us pre-packaged answers. But if he does that, then that is the end of the conversation. Orders have been given from on high, and that’s it. Now he has a perfect right to do that. He is Lord. But I suspect he often asks us questions instead of giving us answers, precisely so that he can engage us. Questions properly given and received promote conversation. Jesus asks us questions so that he can stimulate a combination of prayer and action.

And come to think of it, aren’t prayer and action the very things that drive us to ask the best questions of him? Will prayer and action be the reasons we have a relationship of questioning faith with our questioning Lord?

PhD

 

Centenary logo small

CODEC, St John’s College, University of Durham, PhD Research Project: Communicating the Gospel in a Digital Age or Biblical Literacy in a Digital Age

£11,000 bursary per annum (plus academic fees paid)

CODEC has been awarded funding from The Methodist Church of Great Britain to establish a research project exploring either the impact of the digital age on the communication of the Gospel or the use of the Bible in the Church and in an increasingly digital society.

We are seeking a student with outstanding potential to pursue research in the above areas based at St John’s College at the University of Durham and within the newly established CODEC research centre in collaboration with the Director of Research, Revd Dr Peter Phillips.

St John’s offers a wealth of research collaboration opportunities including the Wesley Studies Centre, Cranmer Hall and the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. The research supervisory panel will bring together support from each of these centres, while the PhD will be undertaken through the normal University of Durham graduate processes.

While pursuing this research you will be expected to work together with other researchers, academic members of staff and ordinands at the various associated centres. You are expected to have a good Masters degree or at least a high 2.1 BA (Hons) (or equivalent) in Theology or a related subject. Candidates with a high 2.1 in Media or Computing Studies or related subjects as well as a postgraduate qualification in Theology will also be considered. Ideally you will have an active interest and/or experience in more than one of the following areas: communication, media, postmodernism, biblical literacy, missiology/evangelism. You should have good computer skills. Good written- and verbal-communication skills are essential as are the ability to work as part of a developing research community, be self-motivated and pro-active.

The successful candidate will be expected to complete the PhD programme including the publication of relevant research papers and academic articles, as well as contributions to academic conferences and the dissemination of the conclusions reached during the research.

Candidates will provide a formal research proposal as part of the application process. Interviews will involve the presentation of this research proposal to a panel.

For an informal discussion or an application form and further particulars please contact Dr Peter Phillips, Centre for Biblical Literacy, Tel: 0191 334 3896, Mobile: 0787 633 7157 email: p.m.phillips@durham.ac.uk.

Closing date: 14 November 2008

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,225 other followers