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Showing posts from March, 2011

My Mother's Hymnbook but not Mine

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At the moment I, and others, are exposing the darker underbelly of our personal soundtracks to those interested in the 30 day Song Challenge over on Facebook, and in that I think that I am confirming my reputation among my critics and friends (and that list overlaps significantly) as a musical Philistine. That can only be reinforced in this post where I am, essentially saying that I really, really, really don't like Johnny Cash's "My Mother's Hymnbook" very much...
A number people have recommended it to me in the light of my enjoyment of Tom Jones' "Praise and Blame" and Robert Plant's "Band of Joy" so I borrowed it off a friend. But try as I might, listening to it day in day out over a number of weeks, I'm afraid I just couldn't warm to it. I like Johnny Cash at his best, but even though this was reputedly Cash's own favourite from his mountain of recordings, I just don't get it... Actually even the songs I do like, I p…

The Theology Game

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Our church book group is currently looking at Scot McKnight's "A Community Called Atonement". I must say I'm finding it a stimulating read, and, after we've had our discussion of it next week I'll post a longer reflection. The opening page served as the stimulus for my only contribution to the MCI Lenten Blog on the Atonement, which was published today, entitled "The Atonement Game." What I say in that blog regarding the debate regarding the Atonement, might also be usefully applied to the ongoing hell-Bell saga... His book, "Love Wins" will probably be on the reading list for the book group soon, but until such time as I actually read it, I'm not making any further comment or posting links pointing to what others are saying from varying informed and uninformed positions. Mr. Bell's publicity machine is doing a good enough job on its own (hence the lack of a link even to buy the book)... I will, however, say that so far the whole ep…

Incident at Vichy

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This is just a quick post, because I want to get it up before the event it refers to is over...
Last night I had the privilege of attending performance of Arthur Miller's "Incident at Vichy" in the Belfast Synagogue as part of the 2011 Jews Schmooze Arts Festival.
I was invited to go as part of the inter-faith panel invited to discuss the play afterwards. Our briefing was not to discuss the performance as such but the ideas that lie within the play, and I'll keep largely to that brief in this short post too...
However, I would like to particularly commend the performances of Matt Faris as the psychiatrist/army veteran "Leduc" and James McAnespy as the artist "Lebeau". The former may have been a little too intense all the time for my liking, but these were the stand-out performances, in an ensemble of mixed skills and experience. Perhaps because of the varying levels of performance ability, the production itself was not of the highest standard, but i…

Lent Reflections...

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Just a brief plug for a few resources that might be worth following over Lent...
For those of you who fancy a bit of theological stimulation, the Methodist Church in Ireland are fielding a series of reflections on the Atonement... As the former convener of Faith and Order I tried, and failed, to prompt some sort of coherent thinking on this issue for a number of years, but my successor, RevMac has at least managed to get a blog up and running... so it should be interesting to see where it goes...
That is also true of another blog that features in my sidebar... Shouting at the Devil, by anabaptist lay canon David Porter, director of the Coventry Cathedral Reconciliation Programme. He's promised daily blogs throughout Lent... we'll see...
But if you are decidedly old school and prefer your thoughts on paper rather than pixels, the book I have just finished reading, "Walking the Edges" by David Adam, would repay study either on your own or in groups over the coming weeks.…

Hymn to Christ

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Currently we're doing a Bible study on Paul's Letter to the Philippians and we've got as far as the hymn to Christ in Philippians chapter 2. It is pregnant with meaning (and controversy) probably due to its likely origins as a hymn/poem rather than as a piece of systematic theology. The context into which Paul drops it (whether Paul or another originally wrote it is almost irrelevant) is a passage where he is encouraging the Philippians to work together. What follows is my (prosaic) take on this wonderful piece:

Think of yourselves the way that Jesus, the Anointed One, thought of himself:
He was God, through and through,
but did not cling on to his equality with God,
didn’t grasp at things for his own selfish ends,
rather he poured himself out
into the shape of a slave,
taking on the physical life of a human being.
Having become a human being he humbled himself yet further,
obeying God to the death,
ironically to a death that was reserved for rebellious slaves,
death by crucifixion.
B…

Heresy

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For those who haven't seen it, my theological credentials have been cruelly besmirched by WhyNotSmile a few days ago...
For those who haven't got a sense of humour and want to rally to my defence... I asked for it... literally, when I posted on facebook as follows:
"Would someone please write a review of my book saying I am a heretic/servant of Satan... I haven't actually written a book yet, but that shouldn't matter as you don't have to read books now to have informed opinions on them (See Rob Bell's up-coming ouvre)... And there's no such thing as bad publicity is there? With enough negative publicity I could self publish a pile of tosh (double spaced) and make a million..."
For those who haven't a clue what prompted this, and think I am referring to Rob Bell the owner of my friendly local coffee shop, then you have clearly not been on the internet recently, particularly not in the "Christian" ghetto on the wonderweb... But a quick lo…

The Wiki Jesus

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"Jesus" is 10 years old today... or at least the Wikipedia entry on "Jesus" is according to this piece by Chris Wilson that I picked up a couple of months ago via Biblical World. A lot of debate (not least in the internet... see for example the comments at the bottom of Chris Wilson's article) goes into the historicity of Jesus, with sceptics writing most evidence for the existence of Jesus (known as the Christ) as irredeemably biased, with amateur Christian apologists asserting in a vague, unattested way, that there is more documentary evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for the existence of near contemporary Julius Caesar. The latter piece of nonsense probably comes from the more accurate assertion that there is more near contemporaneous documentary attestation to the books of the New Testament than there is to Caesar's Gallic Wars, but that is understandable given that the New Testament was treated as sacred by the church, and many ancient …

Mid-Table in a League of Lears...

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“The weight of this sad time we must obey.
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”
Some of the concluding words of Shakespeare's King Lear (spoken by Edgar... and not Albany as I originally misattributed it until corrected below!) and as good a point to start as any... Never been one to hesitate speaking (or writing) what I feel... and on this one, I doubt that anyone will care what I feel, or think... As ever, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Hundreds of people giving a standing ovation to the Donmar Warehouse's touring production of King Lear starring Derek Jacobi, clearly had a divergent opinion to my own, which was essentially "Glad to be here, but its nothing special."
Why do I say that? Well, first let's put this in context... I probably know this play better than any Shakespeare apart from Macbeth (pause to go outside, spit, turn round and do everything else you're supposed to do if you forget to refer to it as "the Scottish play"…