Some readers will know Phil Townsend. I first met Phil some 19 or so years ago. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus we have been praying for Phil, Lynne and the family. A while back Phil’s brother, Stuart, wrote a song that came out of the situation that they then recorded. Profound and moving. […]
Some readers will know Phil Townsend. I first met Phil some 19 or so years ago. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus we have been praying for Phil, Lynne and the family. A while back Phil’s brother, Stuart, wrote a song that came out of the situation that they then recorded. Profound and moving.
Changes, changes, changes. Who can predict the future? Post Brexit referendum the jury is still out as to what that all means. Gibraltar the clearest ‘remain’ vote (could this be down to vested interest?!!) and yet one of the biggest financial contributions to the leave vote campaign came from there. How will a year-old party […]
Changes, changes, changes. Who can predict the future? Post Brexit referendum the jury is still out as to what that all means. Gibraltar the clearest ‘remain’ vote (could this be down to vested interest?!!) and yet one of the biggest financial contributions to the leave vote campaign came from there. How will a year-old party shape up in France? Across the pond what is happening?
Dependent on the glasses one wears and therefore how we see the world I guess we could be anxious wanting to go back to some safe boundaries (for safe read yesterday and status quo) or we can see opportunities in the space that is opening up. I lean heavily to the latter. From a theological perspective I do so as my eschatology does not have space for a future antiChrist, but consists of an open future that we are challenged to shape in the light of the gospel of freedom; and from an intercessory perspective I see the open space as a result of prayer. Our task is to open space and let it be filled by those of positive vision for the future whether they have faith, as we define it, or not.
In some correspondence today I suggested there are three aspects of society that are essential to shaping the future at this time. I do not place them in an order of priority but suggest they are:
All aspects / spheres of society are important but some have been colonised more than others; some have been suppressed more than others; hence I select these three as perhaps containing the greatest potential. In reverse order…
The arts. Years ago I gave a crazy prophetic declaration that when we learn how to value art the housing market will be re-valued (in many areas that means de-valued). When house prices dictate who can live where, we are not living in a free world. There are also come crazy valuations in the art world, but there are many artists (in the broad sense of that word) who are working with little return. Meanwhile there are those who make money from money… Paul was clear that those who are entitled to eat are the ones who are working, which of course begs the question as to how the word ‘work’ is to be defined biblically. I mentioned above that some spheres have been colonised, and some words certainly have. We have colonised ‘work’ along an ’employed’ / ‘unemployed’ line. Once we remove those terms from a creational context we will have very little left to pull us in a new-creational direction.
Artists are gifted to open our eyes, ears, emotions and imagination to where we could be going. There is a lament contribution that can be made that exposes the right grief about what we have done, but I think now we need more than ever a message of hope. Faith is related to what we hope for, it creates the shape for faith to develop.
The media. We have prayed for a new media. I admire the way that the media continues to push to get stories, even when so much of it has been designated as ‘fake’! The media is not unbiased, and this applies to the media that I like as well as the media that I disagree with. Thank God for social media, although so mixed, it gives access to alternative perspectives, sometimes alternative facts, but even when that is the case these are alternative facts coming from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down.
A free media is vital. In most of our democratic western nations we struggle to really have a free media. The mainstream newspapers of the UK… the TV channels in Spain… ‘freedom’ is not the first word that could be used to describe them. But we are witnessing the same kind of shift as during the Reformation with the printing press and the release of Scriptures in the ordinary language. Controlling the press cannot and never will be absolute, and I applaud those who are committed to its liberation and doing so at personal cost.
Education. I love history, knowing the story of where we have come from is essential. The wisdom and knowledge that has got us here has great value. Animals seem to learn some aspects through instinct, but we as humans learn this through intentionality. We have the knowledge how to build a car, but imagine if you were the last human alive. I would struggle to put together a cart akin to one from ancient society. The knowledge and gifts are held corporately. We can build a cart, a car, a space rocket. Knowledge has great value in being passed on, but creativity birthed from questioning will take us further. Education is not simply teaching people what to think, it is certainly teaching people how to think, but perhaps its greatest goal is to teach people to question.
Neo-liberalism has all-but destroyed most aspects of the economic and business realms, so much so that there seems even in the Christian world very little radical thinking. Unless we have at the core the deliberate non-maximisation of profits, coupled to a strategic plan to be free from the love of money, and at least a measure of embracing the principle of jubilee there does not seem much hope for a change there. (And if this is not arrested I might well have to change my beliefs about an antiChrist – not because of the Bible but our inability to take the Bible seriously enough…)
So in this little musing coming out of this morning’s correspondence I am suggesting that the three areas of education, media and arts might be at the forefront of setting health care free from the monetary colonisation that is there… and from health care there might even be a shift elsewhere.
Arrived home last night which is always a ‘nice’ feeling. Home… though being on the road is just wonderful too. We have just been to Madrid, Toledo and Caravaca de la Cruz. A few more kilometres on the ‘furgo’: around 1.3k or 800 miles, so not huge distances. Madrid was our first destination and we […]
Arrived home last night which is always a ‘nice’ feeling. Home… though being on the road is just wonderful too. We have just been to Madrid, Toledo and Caravaca de la Cruz. A few more kilometres on the ‘furgo’: around 1.3k or 800 miles, so not huge distances. Madrid was our first destination and we met there with two generations of ‘Hawkes’ from north London (Adrian and Pauline, Gareth and Jo). They are such inspirations to us – maybe I should say provocations. Their passion for the Gospel and its outworking at a level of justice (is there another outworking that is at the centre of the Gospel?) is very striking. They have given themselves to everyone but with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees and the provision that they have believed God for, not once but on many occasions. There are those you can read about but it is always a deep privilege to be with the kind of people one can read about.
Over the past years we have met with a sightly wider group from http://phoenixcommunity.org and are glad that we seem to have some positive input to them. Their input to us is immense. We had a few days together and we stayed with them on an interesting street (more below on this!).
From Madrid we made the short drive to a city with major history, the city of Toledo. At one time it served as the capital. Our focus was very narrow – the city had been a centre for church councils, many Jewish massacres and also a centre for the Inquisition – but our focus has been on the Muslim / Christian / ReConquista aspect. In 1045 Alfonso VI of Castile captured Toledo, and although the city is a long way south the capture was viewed as one of the most significant captures in the ReConquista process. A truly magnificient city and one that understandably pulls in the tourists but it is hugely oppressive with clear evidence of the alliance of religion and military pride coming together. It would be a major challenge to live in the city as a believer as those spirits always come to suffocate real life.
Alfonso has a statue erected to him on one of the main ways in to the city. A sword raised to heaven!
Because our focus was on the Muslims we did not visit the Jewish quarter, though we have done that in the past and are deeply grateful for the focus Spanish believers have had on repentance into that history. On the edge of the old city by the Puerta del Sol (gate) there is one of the 10 original mosques that were in the city. It is pretty much intact and has been there since around 1000AD. It was a good place to pray, and as it was still during Ramadan it also carried some weight.
From the Mosque we went to the Cathedral, the Town Hall and the archbishop’s palace. All three together in the one square, and all three together in a spiritual history. How far have we shifted from the simplicity of following Christ, the simple and yet deeply profound message of the cross that made an open show of what is at the heart of controlling power? It is very difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion when walking the streets of a city like Toledo that ultimately there is no difference between the controlling Judaism that colluded with Imperial power, the Islamic faith that proclaims a predestinating God, and a christianity that transforms the cross into a sword. They are of one spirit, and certainly not of the Spirit of Jesus… though wonderfully he can be found hidden in there. Days of walking, praying are very provocative, they seem to bring sight in new ways.
Cathedral and a military / Knights T / St George images:
From Toledo we went to Caravaca de la Cruz, a town not too far from Murcia in the south. It of course has Moorish history but our focus here was simply to complete going to the three places in Spain that are legitimated by the Vatican to offer ‘perpetual indulgences’. (Inside Spain there are three, outside two – Jerusalem and Rome.) I am sure there are those who find Jesus, and even find forgiveness in the midst of the paraphernalia, but oh for some of the simple ways of Jesus to become available! This place draws so many pilgrims but here the religious spirit was not so heavy as in Toledo…
Here is view of the city from the pilgrimage sanctuary:
So a little journey and back home. The next days we will try to shape the next parts.
And the street name? Just before we left Noé (from Calpe) had talked to us about what is considered the major battle that is the turning point in the ReConquista: the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). So we have been reading on this and know that (probably) in July we will travel there. There is much to write about on the history, but of interest in terms of where we have been, the ‘Christian’ forces came from Toledo to the battle. They included the most unlikely of allies, and also drew in the Knights Templars and the Order of Santiago. Later in the same year of the battle there was a major slaughter of Jews in Toledo. Those kind of connections are not uncommon.
And the street in Madrid? Here is the corner of the street:
Nice pointer on the journey – who needs GPS with signs like that!!
So goes the strap line for one of the great(?) symbols of our day. Reminds me of Paul’s words – ‘this one thing I do’. His context was his passion to be faithful to his Lord, but taking it out of context I have often used his phrase as ‘make sure you complete the focus […]
So goes the strap line for one of the great(?) symbols of our day. Reminds me of Paul’s words – ‘this one thing I do’. His context was his passion to be faithful to his Lord, but taking it out of context I have often used his phrase as ‘make sure you complete the focus you have’. Do the one thing, even if there are 100 things left undone, rather than do the 100 but omit to do the one thing. We have one thing to do this year… follow (spell that stumble along) wherever it takes us as we track with the entry, defeat and expulsion of the Muslims from Spain.
It is an interesting journey. A while back just before we began with the first journey north I said to Gayle – we might be the only believers in Spain who are focused on this specifically so we had better do it. Always of course there are many others who got there a long time before us. Here a quote regarding the town where we live:
In other cases, the rebels shouted “Death to the Moors unless they become Christians!”. At the town of Oliva, Muslims were robbed and killed even as they were being taken to the church to be baptized, and eyewitnesses reported dozens of corpses littering the roadsides. Not all Christians engaged in these activities or approved of them. Some Muslims at Oliva were protected by a local friar and a group of local Christians, and this was not the only occasion in which Christians intervened to save Muslims from the rebels.
I noted also when writing about La Muela and the atrocity there that Zapata spent months seeking out Muslims to get them safely to Africa. There seems always to be seed in the ground. Seed waits for a time to be watered and for a result to spring up.
In seeking to explain the what and the why we are deeply challenged. If we had been instructed to pray into the history of the Jewish expulsions there would have been more of a resonance for many. That expulsion and treatment was and continues to be an issue. The only question that would remain would be that of the validity of repentance for something ‘we’ did not do. But the Muslim expulsion? A double issue – ‘we’ did not do that, and ‘they’ are a false religion that has to be resisted.
In my inbox this morning came Jeff Fountain’s weekly word: (available at http://www.schumancentre.eu), entitled ‘Casting out Fear’. With the backdrop of the terror attacks Jeff then opens what the news does not report (and by news I also include the ‘Christian’ news).
Dr. David Garrison has researched the impact of the Gospel in the Muslim lands and defines a ‘movement to Christ’ as being when more than 1000 Muslims were baptised as Isa-believers within a community, or over 100 churches were planted, within a generation. (So how many movements are there in the Western world by those criteria?)
Garrison says the first Muslim movement to Christ did not occur until the 19th century, more than 1000 years after Muhammad’s message first echoed from the minarets of Medina. Then a further ten Muslim movements to Christ in the late 20th century. But, he writes, in the few years so far of the 21st century, we have already seen more than 60 new Muslim movements to Christ–a staggering increase!
So back to our little ‘one thing we do’. If land holds the corporate memory, and blood cries out from the land, Spain is vulnerable to all kinds of entrances. The church (certainly those who follow Christ, and maybe those that take the name church also?) has an unlocking and locking mandate. If the church has lived by the sword, and that militancy still is a strong paradigm, certainly at a heart level – and often beyond that too, there is something to be undone. Seed is in the land. It waits for a time to be watered. Good seed and bad seed. After watering comes fruit.
What a time to partner with heaven. Gayle and I do not need to convince one and all. That is irrelevant. Thank God for the many who have gone before, and the many today who are standing in line with the cross of Christ who are being more faithful than we are… but we need to do that one thing set before us.
La muela – the molar. The name given to high cliff top area to the West of Valencia, la muela de Cortes de Pallás. Our last 30 kms to get right in to the village took us over an hour, beautiful but inaccessible. It was here that some 3000 moriscos (and of course that term […]
La muela – the molar. The name given to high cliff top area to the West of Valencia, la muela de Cortes de Pallás. Our last 30 kms to get right in to the village took us over an hour, beautiful but inaccessible. It was here that some 3000 moriscos (and of course that term suggests that they were muslims but in reality they were a mix of muslims and christians) had gathered. They retreated to this area as they did not want to be evicted from their land.
Having travelled in the north with Noë, Loli and Sam, they left for Calpe and France respectively and Gayle and I drove to La Muela. It is in the middle of a huge mountain range:
They took to the cliff top above the town for their protection. A major force came against them, initially offering for them to surrender, but the ‘Christian’ troops did not want to lose their plunder so took things into their own hands, to rape and plunder. It was brutal, and there are records of women with their children jumping from the cliffs to their death in order to avoid the brutality. The attack was under the governor of Xativa (I commented on Xativa in yesterday’s post).
Eventually the so-called ‘last king of Morisco Spain’, Turixí, was captured a few months later and taken to Valencia where he was drawn and quartered.
A bloody history and one that took place centuries ago (1609) – for the Western mind-set it has nothing to do with us today. For other cultures? And for the land that holds the corporate memory, it is alive until there can be a Jubilee, a re-set. This reset is what is motivating Gayle and me. The cross is an event in time to re-set all things.
The pursuit of the moriscos from the area of La Muela continued and in 1611 a reward was given for every morisco brought in ‘dead or alive’. ‘Christian’ bounty hunters descended on the region in great numbers as a result. In the midst of this a Simon Zapata took on himself to coax Moriscos down without violence. He spent months roaming the mountains and led them personally to the coast. He even sent his brother on a ship with them to guarantee their safety on arrival in Algiers. We bless and are blessed by his memory. The land too remembers this.
Spain is so varied in landscape. Travel in the north and get off the main roads into the villages and with mountains all around one could be in Switzerland or Austria. Liébana is in the picos de Europa (peaks of Europe) and the monastery there is one of the other five places that can offer […]
Spain is so varied in landscape. Travel in the north and get off the main roads into the villages and with mountains all around one could be in Switzerland or Austria. Liébana is in the picos de Europa (peaks of Europe) and the monastery there is one of the other five places that can offer ‘perpetual indulgences’. We travelled there with the main focus being on the beginnings of the ‘ReConquista’. The initial battle that halted the Muslim advance was at Covadonga in Asturias in 722. After this Asturias was a ‘Christian’ kingdom. It was though from Liébana that the agreement was made (church and civic) probably sealed with the eucharist to drive back the Muslims, fuelled also by an interpretive book on Revelation!
We took ourselves here to break bread in the open outside the monastery and to pray for a shift. As we began to pray the invitation was given over the loudspeaker to come to the service as this was the year of Jubilee. We did not join the service (really?) but took hold of the announcement of Jubilee. Debt forgiveness… Along with the prayer in the field pulling on the work of Priscillian this was a very powerful time.
I have been a little while in getting this up on the site – we were there a little while back. We are at home currently making plans for the next phases which we think will culminate in Gibraltar in September to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gibraltar day (Sept. 10th). This week we also discovered a Dayesh video saying that they will not forget Al Andalus (Iberian peninsula) and that they will not forget Cordoba, Toledo or Xativa. The first two were not a surprise, but the third specific (and they only mentioned those three in this video) was surprising. We will be in Toledo in just under 2 weeks, and Xativa? Well it is 40 minutes from here… again indicating the brutality of the expulsions from this region.
A couple of images 1) en route through the picos de Europa; 2) the monastery of Santo Toribio that has (of course it is genuine!!) a part of the actual cross of Jesus:
Having discovered the story surrounding Priscillian we planned to travel to Santiago de Compostela via a field (as one would). The reason being that Priscillian engaged with people where they were and was willing to oversee the eucharist outside. So before getting to Santiago we pulled off the road and with bread and wine prayed, […]
Having discovered the story surrounding Priscillian we planned to travel to Santiago de Compostela via a field (as one would). The reason being that Priscillian engaged with people where they were and was willing to oversee the eucharist outside. So before getting to Santiago we pulled off the road and with bread and wine prayed, unravelling some of the string.
As we began to pray we had a number of swifts turn up, flying all around – this we have found not to be uncommon, and even back in the day we had one fly in and out of our apartment in Cádiz. There is so much more resonance between creation and heaven than we often realise.
On to Santiago… without doubt many people meet God on the camino with time to reflect and re-centre. As well there are many diverse ways in which people connect. I would benefit from the camino I am sure, but this kind of focus is not something that would come easy to me. Maybe when I eventually grow up and enter the second half of life I might be able to connect more with this kind of spirituality!? The history though of the camino is a covering over of the Prisicillian history with the myth of St. James – whose body is supposedly in the cathedral having been taken across the Mediterranean, avoiding pirates en route and in a stone boat!! (Remind me when I make up a story to stay a little closer to something a little more believable!) For all those who have found God on the camino nothing I write here is to take anything away from that. Even if it is a myth and a covering over of something deeper, and in that sense a deliberate deception, as I believe, it highlights that God is to be found in all kinds of places. That God is found does not say too much about the place where he is found – it simply says a lot about God’s mercy.
Inside the cathedral we did not find great darkness. Of course there are religious aspects that do not seem too healthy but God is to be found. The statue (actually 2 statues) of St. James is present and we took our turn to walk past, not to pay homage, but to indicate that something was passing!
Glad we made the journey there. It is Gayle and my second time there in the city. So we bless all pilgrims who truly connect with God through whatever spirituality works for them. For us… the field, the open space will continue to draw… and the city!
Outside the cathedral there was a sign regarding work being done on the cathedral, and saying that this was a new time for the cathedral.
Below is the map of our journey:
2 Madrid: picked up Sam at the airport / connected with Noë and Loli in El Espinar
3 Lugo: string, Marcos Zapata, hospitality
5 Santo Toribio de Liebana
6 Santander: John Mark and Marcela and hospitality
7 Madrid: a day in the city
8 La Muela de Cortes de Pallas: the last king of the Moriscos
For those who follow this blog you will know that we are focused for this year on how we can contribute to the undoing of the negative aspects of the ReConquista: the taking back of the Iberian peninsula for the ‘Christian’ faith and the ending of almost 800 years of Muslim rule. We neither come […]
For those who follow this blog you will know that we are focused for this year on how we can contribute to the undoing of the negative aspects of the ReConquista: the taking back of the Iberian peninsula for the ‘Christian’ faith and the ending of almost 800 years of Muslim rule. We neither come at this believing that we would not have done what our ‘Christian’ foreparents did had we been alive then, nor that all the fault lies on one side. We do approach it from today, carrying the perspectives of today, so hold that what was done in the name of Christ was not reflective of the Gospel he left for us to proclaim. We approach it as followers of Christ hence believe we carry a responsibility to stand in the gap with repentance for what has gone on before. There are many prayers and exhortations in Scripture concerning the confession of one’s sins and the sins of those who have gone before. There is no suggestion that the NT overturns this and the strongest NT example is the baptism of Jesus, a baptism for the forgiveness of sins which he underwent. Only when it was clear that Jesus was being baptised representatively to fulfil all righteousness did John agree to baptise him. Anyway – our convictions, and what motivates us for the year. There is no need to convince others! I (sadly) came to realise some years back that the Lord does not focus on convincing others that what I believe is correct and I also discovered that he seems more interested in how I live according to my convictions than how clever I am!
We have always been amazed that information surfaces when one needs it. God is not the purveyor of information as and when we want it. I consider this is the case as any real information has to be responded to. We become accountable for what we know. The Pharisees understood that Jesus was clearly of the opinion they were blind (Jn. 9) and were a tad upset about this. His reply to them was that for their sake they would be better off just accepting they were blind, for if they had sight their guilt (responsibility) would remain. Hence I always consider that information follows revelation and is an indicator of a time-line. God gives information when the body of Christ can respond and see a shift as they partner with heaven.
Last year we began to call for anything deep in the land (in the north) that was related to a Celtic understanding of the Gospel, then began to be convinced that 2017 was the year to journey and pray into the undoing of the negative effects of the Christian / Muslim conflict over the land. In the wider picture we would see that this still gives Islam a foothold on the land spiritually and that such non-cruciform response to Islam is what gives it strength… in other words that Christendom (church state alliance, ‘Christian nation’ theology etc.) is what feeds Islam today. In that sense Islam, with its space for Jesus even in the Quran, could even be seen as a cult as much as another religion. Oops, I just saw a can of worms there, so moving on quickly.
Information comes forth
Into that mix our connections turned up with a gentleman called Priscillian, a Celt who became bishop of Avila, but who operated also in the open fields with the eucharist and held to the equality of women and men. He did not seem to have a direct connection to the British Celtic church, but there is some link to Martin of Tours (though I consider him really Martin of Poitiers) who had a link to Patrick, of Irish fame. And then the big one… it seems the whole camino de Santiago was created to squash the Priscillian history, and that someone as academic as Henry Chadwick held to the belief that far from James being the body in Santiago it was actually Priscillian!! The Celtic in the land being suppressed by an overlay of church and Empire (the two that came together to have Priscillian killed).
So for us there was an added element that came in. Not only the ReConquista but the calling forth the Celtic Christian roots and also seeking to stand in the gap for what we understand to be the first Christian to be killed by the initiative of other believers who pulled on Imperial power to have it effected. This of course being in parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus, pursued by fellow Jews who pulled gladly on Imperial power to see him killed.
So off we went just over a week ago. All across Spain to the north west, initially an 11 hour drive. We went with Samuel Rhein (France) and Noe and Loli from nearby Calpe. Amazing travelling companions and we were highly privileged to be with them. Our first day was in Lugo. We were hosted there by Marcos whose church and work is doing an amazing work in that city and across the Galicia comunidad. Some weeks back Gayle had said to me that we have to start in Lugo as that was where the end of a ball of string was and we needed to begin to unravel things from there. Amazingly when we entered the old city through a gate in the intact Roman wall the first shop in front was a string shop with all kinds of string, sizes and shapes! We bought a ball of 7 metres of string that will come with us and we will unravel this piece by piece until we get to Gibraltar (September).
The happy travellers:
The happy string shop (outside):
and also happy inside:
The happy ball (about to be unravelled) that will accompany us:
A lot of happiness… and getting on the road, a feeling of what one was born for, or rather what two were born for, does help and pump the happiness gauge up a bit!!
Maybe not the best way to do this but any non-responses to emails, lack of posts is due to being on the road. We have covered a considerable distance thus far… many highlights maybe yesterday the best with prayer in the mountainous region called los picos de Europa (the peaks of Europe) where the agreement, […]
Maybe not the best way to do this but any non-responses to emails, lack of posts is due to being on the road. We have covered a considerable distance thus far… many highlights maybe yesterday the best with prayer in the mountainous region called los picos de Europa (the peaks of Europe) where the agreement, religious and political, was made to begin the expulsions. From there a 700 year process began.
Tonight we will be in Madrid before heading east to the northern province of Valencia. Once home a fuller report!!
I won’t go on and labour too much the incredible upgrades(?) to my beliefs that have taken place. For those who have followed this blog I have probably rambled on about them in so many different posts that I will be in serious danger of repetition. I will list them below then follow on with […]
I won’t go on and labour too much the incredible upgrades(?) to my beliefs that have taken place. For those who have followed this blog I have probably rambled on about them in so many different posts that I will be in serious danger of repetition. I will list them below then follow on with a perspective about the kingdom of God from there. As I understand it and cast a backward glance I think my upgrades include:
The nature of the cross and how there are two crosses, the cross of Constaninianism being a false one. The co-opting of the cross being to disempower the belief that in laying down one’s life is the means by which resurrection is released, and that through the co-opting of the cross there can be an empowering of the demonic. Christendom being the fufilmment of that, and the danger in the charismatic world being of coming to break demonic bondage by a power structure that is itself demonised. Acknowledging that a) we are not talking in absolutist terms, and b) that for all of us we sit on a spectrum between those two crosses.
That this opens up the challenge of a wideness in the mercy of God, where people who ‘see’ humanity are in measure responding to heaven, and those who dehumanise, even if professing faith, are failing in that way to respond to heaven. Again acknowledging the spectrum involved. (This and the former point I sought to cover in yesterday’s post.
We are called to be witnesses not to evangelise. I do not mean by that we do not ‘evangelise’ but if it does not flow out being witnesses I question its validity. We bear witness that our allegiance is to another king, indeed to one whose rule is such that he subverts the very meaning of the term king and rule.
The church’s key role is to be a royal priesthood, that God calls us to ensure there is an environment where the world can move into her destiny. To do so we have to deal with self-preservation, a king mentality, the sovereignty mind-set and be life-giving through life-laying-down
This opens an expectation that fulfilments are not going to be fulfilments in and by the church but in the world. I have blogged before on the visionary experience of the square in Madrid and the fulfilment of the vision in detail in and through a protest movement.
So the coming of the kingdom is…
There seems to be two views in conflict. Any and all improvements, manifestations of goodness being declared as kingdom – so the social change / justice people sit here. Or that the kingdom is related to the church, so good as it is when there is social change this cannot be described as kingdom.
The issue with the former is that the kingdom (New Jerusalem vision) has to come down from heaven and from the throne of God. It does not rise up from the earth. What rises up is Babylon. The issue I have with the latter is the tendency to own the term ‘church’ by one particular centrist model and to exclude the activity of God to what is beyond the circle drawn.
If our responsibility is to ensure that the world has an opportunity to be aligned closer to heaven then I am really happy to sit in the first camp. Every evidence that those without a home are given a home, those who are sick are cared for, those in prison visited is indeed a manifestation of heaven. It is considered as being done to Jesus himself. The Spirit’s activity is not restricted to those born of the Spirit for she is the Spirit of creation. God’s activity is both within creation and within redemption, and actively involved in redemption so that there can be an increased manifestation in creation. If demons being cast out and the sick being healed could be termed evidences of the kingdom’s presence I think we can by extension suggest that any removal of bondage, oppression, dehumanisation is likewise an evidence of the kingdom arriving.
I do though wish to marry those above evidences with the arrival of heaven, not simply a better Babylon rising up. Here though is the tension – the New Jerusalem arrives then in fullness and perhaps the provisional arriving of that New Jerusalem now will manifest as a better Babylon rising up. I muse!!
In short I am not satisfied with the claim that holds the kingdom tightly within a church framework. To do so runs the risk of losing the royal priesthood theme which has become a strong paradigm for me. If there is an error involved I would also like to be on this side of the error. Seems to me to be the era we are in. We have to be contextual, and as contextuality relates to both time and place, my beliefs are that the place (the West) and the time (post-Christendom) pushes us firmly toward the royal priesthood end of the spectrum.
There have been a couple of areas where my beliefs have either changed or been upgraded over the past years. Moving to Spain has been an enriching experience, though leaving behind certain connections and contexts in the UK has also been challenging. Getting embedded in a land and its history inevitably opens up fresh perspectives, […]
There have been a couple of areas where my beliefs have either changed or been upgraded over the past years. Moving to Spain has been an enriching experience, though leaving behind certain connections and contexts in the UK has also been challenging. Getting embedded in a land and its history inevitably opens up fresh perspectives, and coming into a land that a) holds some keys to the release of the Pauline Gospel, b) has submerged aspects of that Gospel of freedom under myth and religion and c) held on to the alignment of religious and secular power – epitomised geographically in Escorial, ironically the place where many evangelical and charismatic gatherings take place! – has provoked fresh thoughts. (Now that sentence was way too long, what it could have said was: living in Spain has provoked fresh thoughts.)
Two crosses ~ two Gospels ~ two Gods?
I have certainly come to believe there are two crosses. The implication is that at best we have a variation on the Gospel as a result… two ‘Gods’ might be pushing it too far.
Two crosses – the Constantinian one that can be placed on the sword and shield, or placed above Franco’s tomb or placed on war memorials as per the Knights Templar’s cross does not, for me, stand for the cross, nor is it a variation of the true cross. A means by which the powers could take life being transformed into a means by which we can take life in the name of the life-GIVER is not a variation on a theme but a perversion of the true cross. A few posts back I posted a video of Dani Mateo dancing at la valle de los caidos, where two years ago we went to pray. His dance has not been appreciated by one and all, but he has been clear that this is not a dance of disrespect about religion saying that there are Christians who do not accept the cross there and its symbolism as the true cross. Count us in Dani!!
We are about to travel to take the first step of repentance with respect to the expulsion of the Muslims. This is not about ‘reconquering Spain’ for God. Spain belongs to Jesus, through creation and redemption. For those of us in Christ we are told to see that there is a new creation. If anything this will be a step of repentance with respect to a false conquering. That is not to lay blame at the feet of those who went before. I find that Scripture lays responsibility at the feet of every current generation, for how they respond in their generation and how they respond to what has been inherited in the land from previous generations.
There are major implications on which cross we believe in. Success, legislation and if need be imposition seems to follow the one. The other takes us on a path of servanthood and seeking the release of others. Of course the reality is that we probably all as followers of Christ adhere to a mixture of both crosses. However, what we focus on will shape how we seek to outwork the Gospel…
Two Gospels? That is a tough one to answer. I tick the ‘born-again’ box but struggle with / object to the approach that objectifies people as potential gospel fodder, that manipulates friendships for that purpose. I have to come close to thinking that approach (whatever the ensuing words) is another Gospel. I vacillate on which side of that I come down on – a variation or a different Gospel.
Two Gods…? First I need to accept that I do not have a true picture of the One true God. And any deviance from a true Jesus-image where my God becomes a non-Jesus looking God I have to accept as false. This is why I do not accept ‘allah’ as presented by Islam as ‘God’. The true God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who as exact image reveals him. Nuancing this though means I do not have to believe that all Muslims using the name ‘allah’ are not connecting to the true God, nor do I rule out the possibility that those who inject ‘Christian elements’ into their proclamation of God are in touch with the true God. Hatred, violence, and a ‘dehumanisation’ of others justified in the name of God / the Christian faith not only does not reflect well on God but does not reflect God at all.
The aspect of dehumanisation is definitely been an upgrade for me. I wrestled with how an atheist could have values that shaped them. ‘Good’ atheists can have values and they might manifest in terms of creation-care or carrying a conviction about justice. I decided that if anyone can see someone else, walk in their shoes, desire their well-being that they have a strong basis for values. Believing in God calls me to carry values for those around and beyond me. The OT laws are a strong evidence of this. The Jewish faith was not a ‘tick the box I have done my Sabbath duty’ kind of faith. It was to be deeply impacting on their society and beyond.
I am not an atheist (hope no surprise there!!) as I have had too many experiences and view the world with too much mystery as to be one, but have deep respect to those who are by honest conviction. If they also ‘see’ humanity they might be denying faith in God but they are in part seeing as God sees. There is a unique claim attached to humanity… the image of God. If a person, with or without faith, can truly see others, there is only step further they can go. They can see Jesus the one and only truly human. This value, of seeing others, has become a hugely shaping factor in how we believe God judges what is done. Even when it is done not in the name of Jesus I would believe this makes a contribution to the age to come.
Beliefs are difficult to define at times. Do we mean ‘core doctrines’ or ‘a way of looking at the world’. Theology kind of covers both I guess, and the more honest person has to acknowledge that one’s beliefs are also shaped by experience, personality and our ‘insides’ in the sense of what is really going […]
Beliefs are difficult to define at times. Do we mean ‘core doctrines’ or ‘a way of looking at the world’. Theology kind of covers both I guess, and the more honest person has to acknowledge that one’s beliefs are also shaped by experience, personality and our ‘insides’ in the sense of what is really going on inside us at a conscious and sub-conscious level. It was an interesting reflection to go over the ten posts of what I still believe, and also to realise that in these past years there have either been (inevitable?) developments or changes along the way.
Definitions are not always helpful. The term ‘evangelical’ is often qualified by an adjective such as ‘post-‘, ‘progressive-‘ or ‘historic-‘. This illustrates the situation. We can claim to be an evangelical if you mean ‘….’ or deny being one if you mean something else by the term. In 1995 Robert Johnston delivered a very helpful paper to the American Theological Society where he addressed the issue of ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy: a Problem for Modern Evangelicalism’. In that paper he described a shift from a previous approach of ‘bounded-set’ thinking to ‘center-set’ thinking. With the former approach life was easy. Draw a square – all who subscribe to the beliefs inside the square were orthodox, all outside were heretics. ‘Center-set’ described a couple of key questions that were at the centre:
By what means is a person reconciled to God?
By what authority to you believe and teach what you believe and teach?
Answer to the first question is ‘Jesus and the cross’, and the second one ‘the Scriptures’. Having answered those two questions in that way does not determine how far one travels in a given direction. The answers could result in ‘only those who are truly born again of the Spirit and are baptised’ are reconciled through to universalism. It could lead to ‘seven day creation in 4004BC’ to ‘evolution’. Hence the paper – how do we determine what is ‘heresy’.
The Bible itself does not always help us. I am so glad that we are not called to blind obedience to a book but to follow a Person. And when we look to the book we have to wrestle with issues of interpretation. It seems the Bible forces us to do this. Jehu is commended for fulfilling the will of God and wiping out Ahab’s evil house at Jezreel (2 Kings 10 ‘You have done well…’ – v.30), yet in Hosea 1:4 Israel is to be punished for the blood shed by Jehu at Jezreel. Did he fulfil the will of God (2 Kings and the prophetic words through Elijah) or were his actions to be judged as per Hosea? Not easy when they are both in the same sacred volume, but I am glad the difficulty is there, it at least helps when wrestling with the genocides of the Old Testament. It has been interesting to read the dialogues between Greg Boyd and Derek Flood. Both take a christocentric approach to Scripture, both refusing to accept that (the OT) God is a God who endorses genocide, but they take different approaches to solving the issue due to how they interpret Scripture. Challenging… and I love the problematic situation that is presented to the inerrantist when faced with someone from Crete in a court of law!
‘Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’ (I leave out the oath bit there as I like to take some key parts of Scripture very seriously!)
‘I do,’ replies the person from Crete.
‘Objection’, shouts the lawyer who is a fundamentalist Bible believing in a very strong inerrantist kind of way.
‘This person is from Crete, and all those from Crete lie. I have that on the authority of Scripture.’ (I won’t give the reference but check out Titus!!)
‘Ah yes but this is only authoritative and inerrant as originally given. Put them under a lie-detector and then we can call a church council and announce that the Scripture in Titus is not as originally given…’
OK, I stop but I was having a little fun there. My point is we have a book we have to wrestle with and it requires that I be less dogmatic than I would like to be on certain situations.
I am certainly 100% evangelical if Robert Johnston’s two questions are sent my way. So when I push some directions in the next few posts I am not ready to be put out of the fold just yet. I will try and centre in on areas that seem to have become more central to me as far as both understanding the journey thus far and in setting a direction to come.
Oh and for the record I don’t think all Cretans lie!