Going too far? #2

'Theory' of Evolution

I have heard so many people say – OK evolution claims to be a theory… that is all it is, a theory. Correct, however the term ‘theory’ in the world of science is used slightly more firmly than we might think. Data considered and weighed is then used to put together a ‘theory’ – something that best fits the data. A bit like a court case where there is no film footage of what took place, interrogations are made and then the jury have to come to a conclusion – we might term their decision is based on a ‘theory’.

I am not a scientist, far from it, and there are those who are scientists who are certainly very unhappy with the ‘theory of evolution’; I have no basis to enter into the debate. Perhaps though with a little bit of understanding of ancient myth stories and genre I would certainly be very negative about trying to defend a young earth / 6 day creation in any literal sense. Hence I am not opposed to evolution – as indeed are many Christian scientists, take for example the book The Language of God by Francis Collins. He being one of the main team of scientists who pushed the understanding of the gene code and as a result embraced both an evolutionary understanding of ‘creation’ and a firm belief in God the Creator.

What is at stake is not the theory of evolution vs. a theory of creation (a theory based on a rather pre-determined approach to an ancient text) but a belief in the God that is revealed in Jesus or a denial of that God.

So here is a thought that might well be going too far!!!

If God is the author of life – does the life that is released inevitably move toward an expression of that life as ‘the image of God’?

The Civil Rights movement used to say:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Wow… that takes faith. A long arc, but bending always toward a future that is different to one around us, always bending toward justice. What if life (OK let me go too far, before I pull back) begins as a single cell, but there is evolution? Where will the ‘arc’ of life move to? Will it inevitably lead to ‘at last an expression of life (human) that we can say is ‘in our image, after our likeness”? I kinda like that. Death exists but life is stronger than death.

So pulling back into real life, and away from pretending to be some psuedo-scientist. I think I am on to something. Submit to the process, go with the life of God and there is an arc, even if it is a long one, of pulling humanity toward being the image of God. True at a personal level, could it be true at a universal level?

Going too far? #1

Beyond the Bible?

I am going to make a few posts that might provoke a ‘this is too far’ kind of response. No worries… fixed points help us travel further than we might otherwise. I walked up a mountain in Italy – higher that Ben Nevis (Scotland) with our dog. It had some paths, but not very clear, and I certainly got myself somewhat lost… however there was a farm house that I had noted on the way up that acted as my guide, and showed me I was now the wrong side of a valley going back down the side of the adjacent mountain. OK – get the point? We can wander and get lost, but if we keep some fixed points we will be able to make a few adjustments in our wanderings.

This first post is one where I think I am no where near in danger of wandering off on another mountain and finding that I have no way of knowing how to get home! I will put it boldly first and then invite you to wander a bit with me:

We have to go beyond the Bible, or
the Bible is not the final word.

Put boldly like that it is amazing what reactions can come, and then I think – and those who object? Why then be happy with ‘pulpits’, ‘ordination’, ‘bishops’, ‘seminaries’ etc. Somewhat beyond the Bible methinks. So we really should not object. Most of what is acceptable that is beyond the Bible comes through tradition, ‘church’ tradition. I want to push in a different direction, and I want to do so as I see developing revelation and understanding within Scripture itself. Very evident with Jesus – you have heard it said, but I say to you… And the change with Jesus is beyond profound. He was either deceived at an incredible level (the Scriptures pointing to him!) or he has to be placed central, with Scripture moving out of the category of timeless truths disembodied from history / culture, to a record of an unfolding story of a people of faith on a journey recording that journey with at times a stronger and at other times a fainter line pointing to the revelation of God in Jesus, and therefore necessarily pointing away from itself. A sign is not the arrival point and at times signs can be confusing (just ask us we tried to follow google maps these past weeks at some crazy junctions!). We can find ourselves with a ‘phew we are still on the right path and direction’ to other times ‘well that was a bit of a dirt path, but here we are back on track’. That is the richness of Scripture – the internal disagreements are so enlightening as they tend to be the ones that expose our personal internal disagreements. (Could this be why the entrance to the kingdom that we favour is ‘you must be born again’ over ‘go sell all you have’? Both statements spoken to an individual – one religious and one rich.)

Surface, and at times deeper than at surface level, disagreements within the pages should alert us to look deeper than wave a few favourite verses around. The God who gave instructions about the death penalty certainly did not abide by those instructions in the Cain / Abel story (nor in the ‘repeat’ in the Jesus / Barabbas story). And as mentioned above – the Jesus approach that overturned / went beyond Scripture with his ‘but I say to you’.

The Gentile mission (Paul) went beyond what they understood. They went beyond Scripture. Of course that can be justified with ‘the Scriptures are apostolic’. I remember well the various lectures on the New Testament where the big issue was of seeking to root the books in either ‘written by an apostle’ or ‘someone so connected to the apostles that they are writing with apostolic authority’. Why? Seems that was a belief imposed on Scripture not coming from Scripture. And this has come through in certain charismatic views of prophecy where (I paraphrase) the apostles of the NT write without error and are the partner to the prophets of the Old Testament – thus prophecy of the NT is not at the same level as prophecy of the Old… (Not substantiated by the testimony of Scripture, so friends of the ‘Gospel Coalition’ this one does not get my vote and I suspect it is supported by (yet again) an imposition on Scripture.) Oh how I love to pontificate!

Moving forward quickly… to be biblical we need to be immersed in, but not drowned by, the text(s) and allow the forward flow to carry us to and through uncomfortable territory. We can be carried beyond Scripture, but it has to be on the same trajectory; we might repeat parts of the story, but a continual repetition might simply lock us in a ‘chapter’ that has already been written. If I am unable to recall earlier ‘chapters’ I will lose the plot, the story. I need the fixed points, the characters, the drama, the flow. But then?

The tension is that the biblical ‘story’ (story-line) holds the answers as they point to Jesus, but if we use the story (the text(s)) to be the end in themselves we will use yesterdays answers and seek to apply them to today’s issues. And on the latter issue highly dangerous when we try and explain biblical discussion and uproot the discussion from the story – such as with the cross of Jesus and the ‘wrath’ of God.

Where could this take us… maybe quite a bit of wandering, but come on there are mountains to be climbed and sight to be gained of a landscape that we have not seen clearly into.

I am provoked by Paul – apostolic writings if ever there were any! He saw ekklesia. Did he see what might lie beyond his passion to get an ekklesia in every place where there was already an ekklesia. What should follow after (I assume there was an ‘after’) there was a community who understood they were (with all their faults – that is grace!) the chosen ones to take on board the future shape, culture and health of what was within their territory? Did he have sight on that? But probably more importantly do we? And then we could explore what territory might mean today – simply geographical? Boundaries and times are in the biblical story – now where might we wander if we keep our eyes on the fixed points?

Una pausa?

Been a while since I posted… well some 7,000kms on the road – Valencia –> France –> Italy –> Switzerland –> Germany –> Switzerland –> Galicia –> home. Great to be away and awesome to come home even if 37°C is just a little too hot. On the road, computer said ‘My time is over’ so I was not about to write a bunch of posts on my phone. But a good pause – always time to pray, talk with my companion (oh yes the one called, Gayle!), refocus etc., and at the same time holding our breath as the election in Spain took place while we were gone – outcome could have been a lot worse!!

Our main involvement while away was for Gayle to hold, with others, a ‘sanctuary’ in Italy. A safe place for anyone connected to ‘Authentic’ to explore being together, share life and stories. I am amazed at the outcome with genuine transformation. I am also deeply interested to journey with this as those of different faith / no faith get involved – one of the passions I have currently is to discover how can we be inclusive and enable people to encounter (or journey toward) the Jesus who uniquely is the image of the one true God.

In a post-Christendom Europe (so much more like the culture of the NT – maybe the answer to prayers that have been asking for a NT-type expression of faith??? I think so!) the question of how people encounter Jesus without the trappings is ever so central. If we want something that is not boxed, and something that touches those outside the box there is only one alternative – go outside the box. Cornelius did not meet Peter (and through Peter, Jesus) in Joppa… but Peter met Cornelius who met Jesus in Cornelius’ home. In the old days we might have talked about the ‘anointing on the house’, but it is now time to find the anointing that is on Cornelius’ house – and it seems to be an anointing for revelation as Peter said ‘Now I perceive…’

Big days… endless possibilities!!

A belief in transformation?

I was asked a little while back – so what do you believe about ‘transformation’ of this world? A huge question and one on which I would like to write something much fuller on one day soon-ish. Also an interesting question as one has to try and see if there has been an evolution of a belief or a U-turn or a change of direction. For sure I once knew so much and now????

I will try and enumerate points in brief and hope that I will be clear enough to be understood and show enough about where I am at:

I am pretty conventional on the parousia – a personal return that brings about the reconciliation of all things without a set of events that precede (event commonly spoken of such as ‘antiChrist, tribulation etc.’). However, given that we might totally miss the thrust of the NT on this (same as many expectant Jews could not see the hope of Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus), I am also open to the parousia being somewhat different to what we might expect… with the resurrection of the dead in Christ being central to that future hope: that was always the hope in both testaments. So on the ‘return’ of Christ I do not subscribe to some triumphalistic (commonly called post-millennial) return.

‘Tickets to heaven’ are not what the gospel is centred on for two reasons – going to heaven when one dies is not the goal, nor are we the ones to decide who is ‘in’ or ‘out’. By all means we share our faith, and people need to be able to ‘borrow’ / ‘use’ our faith and benefit from that. Hence conventional understandings of ‘revival’ with a major influx of people to come to us and tick the same belief boxes as us is equally not the thrust of the NT. I see the context in which Paul worked as understanding that the body of Christ (ekklesia, if you like) was a body of people who took responsibility for the future of their setting. Responsibility for the wider setting in which everyone belonged, even those who did not come to personal faith in Jesus. I am deeply thankful for every person who finds personal faith and the living reality of a relationship to the God of heaven yet with much of that emphasis it furthers the separation of the them / us, and the strengthening of any ghetto. ‘Salvation’ is God’s part not a cultural experience, hence the emphasis on responsibility for the wider setting.

That responsibility involves serving at a human level, and at a spiritual level that of clearing the ‘heavens’ of everything that would pollute the context and obscure God. It does not involve the necessity nor the desire for Christians to occupy the x% of the ‘mountains’. Indeed this being the Christendom model that (my simplistic view) changed the whole nature of the gospel is something that I think is basically toxic.

We face huge challenges that are manifesting at the level of climate change (how long do we have?) and the huge displacements of people. Those issues (and other critical ones) are deeply sobering when we talk of ‘I believe in the transformation of the world’.

We will see (will = are seeing!) huge changes in our lifetime. The world will look so different in another 20 years. How different? Certain elements of transformation will be forced on us. OK… so what do I now believe?

We ONLY have a mandate to pray, work, relate and position ourselves that ‘your kingdom come’. Speculation about ‘Jesus coming soon’ we should not confuse with the hope of the New Testament (‘even so come Lord Jesus’). We should anticipate that there is a God in heaven who answers prayer.

I do see a connection between the many prayer journeys of the past few decades and the future. The answer to prayer is not always what one anticipates… the path to the ‘God come’ might not be the expected and ‘here they all come to our meeting’ but could well be (and will increasingly be) and here go those who carry that personal relation to Jesus into the world, embracing it, being changed by it, and as they are changed so is the environment and the people.

For me nothing has changed at the level of ‘here comes God transforming the world’. Well maybe what has changed is whether ‘we’ have an important and recognised position in it all. I pray today as I did more than a quarter a century ago for the transformation of cities, regions and nations. The difference is I am not counting the numbers who will occupy seats on a Sunday inside various buildings. I look to hear the voices from the streets that are calling out what is obvious wisdom for the future; I look for a sharing wider of a vision for the future that points to the future.

Transformation? Yes bring it on. And some amazing outposts of it here, there and everywhere – though perhaps not so likely to be centre-stage and visible where old paradigms (christendom) dominate.

I still look for change, for transformation. I do not see that we have any other mandate than to pray and work toward that vision. Maybe we will need a ‘conservative’ parousia along the way, but if that is not coming (we have misread… correction I have misread the NT) we still are focused on getting as close as we can to ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ’.

All the above is a great stimulus to getting out of bed in the morning!

Re-alignment of borders?

I read over the weekend about Orkney exploring an alignment to Norway rather than the UK, and a number of people sent me links to the article:



Ah well post-Brexit it might give me an opportunity to get a ‘passport of the Orkney kingdom’ and solve some of the issues with travel in Europe (though we have none as we are permanent residents of Spain and are about to leave for Italy by road this week). Though it would be smart to have a passport shared by only a few thousand people – and I need all the help I can get to be smart.

A number of years ago I prophesied, while in Orkney, that the council was going to be pulled into meetings with Scandinavian countries! One of those times when in my head it was ‘crazy… a small island and proper countries – not going to happen, Martin’ but hey-ho I spoke it out.

I have no idea where this all goes, but for a while I have been contemplating Paul’s little discourse in Athens:

From one ancestor he made all peoples to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps fumble about for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us… Since we are God’s offspring… (Acts 17:26, 27, 29).

Quite a dense bridge-building apologetic in those few words. We are all one people and are ALL God’s offspring – estranged children perhaps might be appropriate, hence at a God – human level reconciliation has to be at the heart of the cross, not such motifs as payment nor punishment.

In the fumbling around there can be a certain amount of accidentally finding ‘him’ (so difficult to get the right pronouns for ‘God’ who is neither male nor female, but what we might term both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’)… so we do not need to take a hyper-oppositional stance to all religions and philosophies. And… back to Orkney in a kind of way…

The boundaries and times for the peoples so that… The boundaries have a purpose, so that there can be a God-search. What if many boundaries are really not the ones God intends? Then the God-search could well be obscured.

War has changed boundaries over and over again – witness currently in Ukraine or Sudan and a host of other places – and I doubt that most of the resulting boundaries are the ones God intends. So here is my thought that has been here for a while – we are going to see a number of boundary shifts and re-alignments. Not the re-alignments to give us back our sovereignty (sub-text: exclude people… even OT-wise with Israel boundaries were to include the alien, widow and orphan), but the re-alignment for human to human relating in well-being and for the ‘God-search’ to be under way. Where does it begin? As always for us who profess faith: prayer and alongside all who are of God’s offspring in relating across human-defined boundaries. Maybe we can’t quite get to Norway to exercise that… but I could look across the street; across the faith boundary I have set; across the ‘morally right’ border that keeps me clean.

To close a short sentence from a WhatsApp message I sent a few days ago to a prayer group:

I have little clarity… I know that Jesus did not promise that he was the way to God, but the way to the God that (seemingly) many people already know but not intimately (‘the way to the Father’), but beyond that I know there are paths we have not trodden nor understood.