Conscience

I was reading an article by Brian Zhand this morning How does the church differ from the nation?… well I slightly changed the title as Brian is writing in the US context but the issues are much wider than the US v. church. But it got me thinking about the issue of conscience.

I have held that there are levels of authority:

  • God and Scripture – maybe we could replace that with the word ‘Jesus’ as both our view of God and our interpretation of Scripture has to go through the hermeneutical lens of Jesus. Here we are dealing with an absolute authority.
  • The conscience. Not perfect and needs education, but is not to be violated
  • Human delegated forms of authority. A very relative form of authority and should not cross the conscience level (‘obedient to God – as interpreted through my conscience in the light of Scripture and tradition (did I write that?) – rather than to human authority (which includes tradition – ah yes I did write that and feel a whole lot better)’)

So my conscience for example did not allow me to swear an oath in court. The words of Jesus I took seriously on this issue, so when serving on jury duty there were two who declined to take an oath on the Bible. Myself and an atheist! Mind you the early Christians were accused of being atheists because their faith did not have the normal religious accoutrements such as buildings and priests. Let’s assume I am right in my interpretation of Scripture that to take an oath is to deny my discipleship by Jesus. What about the many who take an oath who are probably more Christ-like in their lives than I am? Let me for a moment assume that their interpretation of Scripture (a higher authority than their conscience) is wrong. Do I part company with them?

Oath taking is maybe simply a soft example (though for this and a few other ‘soft’ examples Anabaptists were persecuted and not a few put to death by both Catholics and Protestants). But picking a slightly stronger issue. What about those who ascribe to the belief (or myth) of ‘redemptive violence’? What about those who say, believing they might be defending the Christian tradition, that we simply need to go and ‘kill the bastards’ (language apology but this is the language I have heard). I simply cannot hear the voice of Jesus in those statements, and of course successful military exploits normally need to view the ‘other’ as the enemy. Enemies need to be hated, despised and demonised, because we are the good ones. (In this I am not trying to make the field completely level, but simply trying to pull the mountain top of our goodness down some.)

Conscience. Tricky little number that one. I was told by a prophet that ‘If you are a pacifist it will not cut it.’ Well I am not a pacifist as I do not think Jesus was, but I think the alternative is fraught with huge issues.

Bizzare example now coming up. A person has a ‘free’ conscience to have the occasional affair while married. We all – I hope!!! – are ready to let our objection be heard on this one. (Wonder if any voices were shouting in the OT when Abraham stepped out of ‘faithfulness and forsaking all others’?)

But it does get problematic. Beliefs on heaven / hell / Univeralism. Beliefs on same-sex marriage. So, so tricky. Not tricky because I can shout the loudest with my ‘Scripture’ trump card that has to educate the conscience but tricky because on all of those issues many of those who take a certain stance are digging into Scripture. And on issues of oath taking or redemptive violence where I believe the Scripture is very clear I am not to unhappy when others take a different viewpoint. I do not break fellowship with them.

Solution to the above. Everyone conforms to what is tradition. Done and dusted. Or no easy solution. Loads of dust.

Random read #4 – and a few comments!

There are two articles that I want to highlight that I actually read both this morning. They are somewhat different yet there was a resonance between them.

The first by Richard Beck:

I don’t believe in Universalism

Well does he or does he not? His point is that it is the -ism part that does not sit well with him. He concludes with:

Like I said, I don’t believe in universalism.
But I do I believe that all things will be reconciled to God in Christ.
I believe that God is love.

I like his approach: ‘I believe this about the end but am probably wrong, but the fixed point is God is love’. And this I find the challenge – can love overcome or do we have to resort to something else? What about redemptive violence? And it does kick in to our views of the end – will it be a God of justice who appears (and justice coloured by our view of ‘retributive’ not ‘restorative’ justice) and the final battle is won? Or are all things reconciled through the love of God?

Big questions about God and the ‘final judgment’ but also very big practical questions in the here and now. What shapes my life, attitudes and actions?

Having touched on the question of ‘Allah == the God of the NT?’ I was interested to read Ziya Meral’s blog on:

Question of theodicy and jihad

Ziya is no light-weight and has been pulled in not simply by news programmes but has also been called on to advise into governmental settings.

He suggests that we are off-track in wanting to nail whether the Qur’an endorses jihad as the real issue is up stream from this. (How different is the ‘just war’ proposals – different or only different in degree?)

Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Most obviously, this means that we should stop efforts to have other Muslims “condemn violence in the name of Islam” or push for programs that promote theologies that challenge the use of violence. Such programs help to a certain extent, but often lead to a lot of counter-productive pressure on Muslims.

The main theological challenge that lies before us is not whether or not a Muslim can commit acts of terror, but rather, how can there be theologies of hope and social change that channel deep grievances and deprivations into non-destructive activism. This means that our efforts to offer counter-narratives and break cycles of radicalization should not go through arguments on jihad and violence, but projects and messaging that offers a hopeful reading of the world and how deeply religious believers can work to improve, heal and restore a broken world.

His essay has far reaching effects, but into a world full of conflict and one where there are many fears about the loss of ‘religious’ freedom, the overriding challenge in the post-christendom scenario is whether we can really believe that love is the way. Or do we believe that ‘we’ too need to be ‘armed’ in response.

Could it be that the biggest test this century will not be the Islamisation of the West but the opportunity for the followers of Jesus to be love-icised? Prayers for revival (coming to life) begs the question as to what is that God wants to bring back to life? Amidst fears and self-preservation that opportunity might just pass us by.

Words of Jesus:

Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.

Wolf restaurant menu:

  • Roast lamb
  • Boiled lamb
  • Grilled lamb
  • Barbecue lamb
  • Lamb, lamb and more lamb – any way you want it… our speciality

Now was Jesus serious about the victorious ones being those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes?

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

I am currently developing a part of the site with a focus on the 'gates of society'. That section will develop more as a forum with links to other articles, so that it becomes a resource for the future. I will also be looking for other contributors into the various subject-areas.

In my spare time(!!) I enjoy putting together wordpress sites, and also coaching people to make their own - open to hearing from you on that too.

Magazine articles

Just some more blogs? No, of course not, nothing even similar... well maybe very similar indeed, but hopefully you can use them differently. At the foot of this home page you will find 10 more blogs, these ones are grouped together, they will only be replaced every few months with a new set of 10. They can be downloaded as an emagazine, or read here as blogs (click on one and read, or use the 'emagazine' link in the menu above). Here on this site you can also add your comment.

Their core focus will be toward the gates of influence in society. They will not be the final word, hopefully provocative with some practical aspects thrown in.

The first four volumes will be uploaded here in quick succession, after that a breather before the next one. You can access earlier volumes from the emagazine page using the menu at the top of this page.

So you see - nothing like a blog!!

WordPress design

I develop WordPress based web-sites specifically made for your site. This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. It can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or a few additional elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated here. I also plan the sites so that they are mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

Previous posts

A Conundrum

Here is a slow post as the implications of taking a wrong turn could result in a severe accident… So I will try to move slowly. Allah is the Arabic name for ‘God’. God is our normal word used to describe the (Christian) deity that is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus. Allah […]

A reminder

Gayle and I travel today to the UK for her dad’s funeral. It has been a tough few weeks for all the family. This will be the fourth weekend that Gayle has been across this year. John (brother: Sweden), Helen (sister: China) and Mike (Brighton) have also felt the stress. Regardless of dates on certificates […]

Random Read #2

Here are a few random reads from this past few days. An interesting one I picked up was in response to a question I received about a Walter Wink book. His work on ‘the powers’ is quite incredible. Although he does not believe in a personal devil or demons, even for those who do believe […]

Quick follow up

A little quiet here as Gayle and I have had to make some adjustments to our plans. However a couple of things to put together. First is the concept of symbolic intercession. There are many examples of physical manifestations that mirror a historic situation. Ezekiel gives us many examples. Here is one: Then lie on […]

Magazine Articles

Editorial Vol 2.1

In this issue there are a number of articles to respond to. Dyfed reviews Roger Mitchell’s thesis Church, Gospel & Empire. Roger’s book is his thesis so we should not expect it to be an easy read, however, with Dyfed’s review I think the book will be accessible for most. In a recent blog Roger […]

When is a Gate not a Gate?

It is a simple question. Should religion be treated as a gateway in the model of the city that we explore on this blog? Martin and I have both, perhaps instinctively, said no. Then Martin invited an article on the topic: then I got to thinking: then, well, you’ll see.

Ownership, stewardship & forgiveness

“So the business leaders of today are not capitalists in the sense in which Arkwright and Rockefeller were capitalists. Modern titans derive their authority and influence from their position in a hierarchy, not their ownership of capital. They have obtained these positions through their skills in organisational politics, in the traditional ways bishops and generals […]

It’s the Economy stupid!

So much talk about the economy, but what is the economy? Is it just pounds and pence? Dollars and Euros and cents? The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “the system of trade and industry by which the wealth of a country is made and used.”

W.I.L.D. voices for the poor and the powerless

For some time I have been wrestling with the issues of money, care for the poor and how our present western economic system seeks to support people in need. As a community at Antioch, Llanelli we have a focus on ‘God’s presence and the poor’ and over many years see the day to day pressures of folks who are increasingly struggling financially in these challenging times.

Church, Gospel & Empire: a review

‘How is it that the best of church experience in both traditional and radical expressions tends to relapse to hierarchical domination and control?’ This is Roger Haydon Mitchell’s chilling question in his introduction to his newly published PhD thesis, Church, Gospel & Empire.

Art shaping culture

It has been received wisdom for a while now that economic power is shifting from the old world to the new world. Continental Europe is faced with tremendous headwinds to do with spiraling social costs and an ageing population that means growth over the next 100 years will be hard to come by. In the developing world on the other hand very low wage rates and high worker motivation are combining to create a compelling long term argument for excess growth rates and wealth creation for those markets.

Values: unelectability

I watched a film recently ‘Ides of March’. A film looking at people on the campaign trail. The governor has sex with the intern (definitely a big ‘no’ in the film)… However, the areas that were far more challenging though were to do with the ethics of winning votes. One example were meetings with fellow politicians to gain their endorsement. Making a deal so that votes could be guaranteed – in return a position in the forthcoming government.

Wealth: redefinitions

Definitions of course have their limitations, but I was provoked and challenged when sitting listening to a Zimbabwean speak. His question to us was to consider what are we were investing into. To help us he used the two phrases of ‘artificial’ and ‘creational’ wealth. One he said was how the (industrialised) West defines wealth, but is illusionary. This he, therefore, termed ‘artificial’.

Come back Christian nation

Abortion, gay marriage, Sunday trading (sorry, strike that one off, as we like that now)… All evidence that we are losing it. The ‘look, once we could see Cathedrals and church spires on the landscape, now Mosques are where churches once stood’ type of statement are all laments about what is disappearing.