A Taster

Been a while since I have posted here. I have been writing… Just completed the fourth of a proposed six-series set of book(lets). Below is the opening paragraphs, followed by the closing paragraphs, from the third volume and a chapter entitled, ‘A necessary chapter’. This volume seeks to engage with some practical areas of society, so the first chapter was on the Arts, others are on Health and Education, Business (as Unusual) and the Media.


A chapter on the arts was a nice gentle way to highlight how any communication needs more than words to bring about change. In that chapter I said that art has often been commodified, becoming the collector’s piece, sometimes because of a deep appreciation of the art but often because of the perceived investment value. One piece bought for monetary reasons while other artists, who put their heart and soul into something (not to mention many hours), cannot make a living from their gift to society. It leads me to this chapter, a necessary one, on money, work and value.
The archaeologists report that between the 10th and the 8th century BC there were many economic changes in the land of Israel. Over those two centuries a huge discrepancy grows between the size of houses. We might view it that prosperity abounded and that this was evidence as to how God had blessed, but the 8th century prophets viewed it very differently. This is the rise of the critical voices of the prophets who connected social inequality to a faithlessness to the covenant. A poignant example is in Amos 4:1-4,

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,”
declares the Lord.
Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.

Continuing to tithe and sacrifice in the appointed way was exposed as a farce as there was no justice, no semblance of an egalitarian society. In the life of Israel the law stipulated an intentional levelling through the system of Sabbath, the seventh year Sabbath and a radical Jubilee every fiftieth year when there was a reboot to the whole of society.

Before wading in to some of these major issues a gentle proviso that I will try and pick up in a later chapter. The gentle proviso is, ‘but we have to be practical.’ Agreed! We are not looking for something that is perfect for we wait for the day ‘when the perfect comes’; we live in a fallen world and in that world we have to learn how to compromise. The compromises that we are to be involved in though are to be redemptive. Redemption does not bring us to perfection in the immediate but re-aligns us so that there is a before and an after, so that we are not left the same, and the after is better than the before. Jesus quoted the Scripture that ‘the poor you will have with you always’ (John 12:8 quoting Deut. 15: 11), and that surely is true.

However, we cannot use it as if Jesus intended us to be unmoved or inactive about inequalities. The Scripture that Jesus quoted, Deut. 15: 11 says:

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

There is a reality that there will always be those who experience poverty, and in the light of that there has to be a spirit of generosity, for such was the commandment God gave them. The wider passage exhorts us to be generous, to cancel debts, to help liberate and to truly work toward the goal of eradicating poverty.

The gospel sets out the eschatological focus, and then deals with the present in both real and redemptive terms. It does not call us to live with a utopian vision, nor does it allow us to be passive. The ekklesia is present in the world to bring about change, and we are in a world that is all-but a runaway train hellbent on destruction. The original sin of consumerism, of moving boundaries for personal gain has to be addressed. This chapter is focused on money (or maybe better put as Mammon), but it could equally address the ecological crisis which is yet another sign that we have, as a race, been consistently moving boundary markers for personal gain.

………

The age to come, the one we are preparing for, and the one that we are preparing the materials for, will not be an age when there will be segregation along financial lines. Yet this age has increasingly sown into that financial divide. In closing this chapter, one that had to be written, let me simply ask how we should best sow into that glorious future. If I am privileged to own my own house should I pursue an even bigger stake in bricks and mortar? Should I look to store up more for myself with a pension scheme that will only increase the money distortions of society? Should I look to leave money to my descendants so that they might have the potential of moving further up the scale than I was able to?

Hard questions? Or looking at the reality that there is an age to come and how should we live in that light of that?

What remains clear is the concept of simply encouraging believers to rise to the top 3% of the mountain of influence without any critique of the existence of the ‘mountain’, could indeed release an influence, but the influence might not be an influence for the kingdom. The mountain remaining is not a signpost of the age to come.

We do not live in a perfect world and we await the age to come. While living in the in-between time, while we inhabit this imperfect world, we have to make compromises, yet we cannot simply compromise while refusing to look at the issues that pollute our world. Mammon and consumerism have been here since the beginning, but will not be here at the end. We live in between those two points. If we allow ourselves to be dragged back then, for sure, we are not of those who are contributing to the transformation of this world, and the preparation of the next.

Almost Ready to Roll

First, an apology that the link on Gaz’s last post was not working… NOW CORRECTED. And well worth the read.


Many of you know that I have been working on a series of booklets – 3½ of an initial 6 are now written. The first one should roll out by early September, so a little advance note about what they are and what I hope to do with them.

Here is the blurb about the series:

Explorations in Theology, a series of short books that offer some fresh perspectives on common themes. They are certainly not the final word, but are intended to open possibilities beyond a theology that selects a narrow set of ‘proof-texts’ (while ignoring others). Written in simple language, never demanding agreement with the author, they will become a resource to develop one’s own convictions.

The first one is entitled ‘Humanising the Divine‘, here is the blurb:

In this first book in the series Scott begins by placing Jesus at the centre of theology. He maintains that Jesus is presented in Scripture as both the image of God and the image of true humanity. God was ‘humanised’ through the Incarnation, and through the cross a road block was placed on humanity’s road to destruction. In the middle chapters there are some fresh perspectives on Judas, Peter and Cornelius, suggesting that salvation is much more to do with a call to join the movement to work for the restoration of humanity, than a ticket to heaven.

They will be available in two formats: hardback print version and as an ebook that will be readable on most (if not all) ebook readers / tablets / phones.

I have run two zoom groups in the past months to try out the concept of what I plan to do, so I see three options:

  • The book in either format can be bought and read / or simply placed on the bookshelf (!).
  • The book can be bought and there will be a podcast on each of the chapters that will give a little bit of background behind some of the concepts, and suggest a few questions for reflection.
  • The book can be bought and one can opt to join a weekly zoom group (the first is not likely to start before October 1) where a chapter will be dialogued through each week. (This is what I have done with the two groups I mentioned above.)

[Once the first book is finally out I will give details of the above options – where to order etc.]

Also for those who have been on a zoom group they will be able to contribute to a forum for open discussion. Anyone will be able to read the discussion but only those who have zoomed will be able to contribute.

Who am I writing for?

Anyone… But I am looking to interact (zoom / forum) with people on a similar page. I am not for one minute suggesting I have the truth (as if!) and am not looking for those who will simply agree with me, but those who are willing to consider what I write, respond and then be able to disagree and come to their own conclusions. I am not looking for those who will quickly tweet ‘Goodbye Martin Scott’!!! (That last tweet was to a famous tweet from a famous person to a certain Rob Bell!) If someone of the Calvinist tradition wishes to read the book(s) and then review them they can feel free to do so on their own site – I have no objection to that, particularly as there will be enough in the pages to critique. There is no redemptive value in us trading blows – I am too fixed in my beliefs and ways for that to work and I think those of a deep Gospel Coalition perspective are too! So I am not looking for those who agree with me nor those who vehemently disagree!!!

Finally here is the bio attached to the books that will help position me and my (hoped for) interactors:

Martin Scott, married to Gayle, with whom he has lived in Spain since 2009; born in Orkney (islands off the north of Scotland) a number of years earlier! At times opinionated, arrogant and often slow to learn… not characteristics most authors profess to have! Believing in the image of God in humanity he is optimistic about the future. And his writings connect with a wide diversity of people, particularly those who are willing to think outside the box.

I see these books and the interactions as being a major focus for the next years / decade… so look forward to connecting with many of you.

Human

Fully and Truly Human

The second chapter in the awesome first volume is going head on with a view on humanity. (I am on zoom with a small group Sunday and we will be gradually working through this booklet. The full booklet I will publish here in due course.)

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your hand-made sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way? (Ps. 8).

Many views of post-fall have humanity as basically evil, totally depraved. Better forms might suggest that totally depraved means affected in every area, but the final result is whatever good is done it is but ‘as filthy rags’. Having no value before God. It is easy to pull together Scriptures that prove a point (I would never do this!). filthy rags has a context, and it the context is not – regardless of who you are it is all rubbish whatever you do. The context was concerning religious behaviour.

Jesus is fully human, not semi-human. Although never ceasing to be God he becomes full human, sharing in our humanity (for those interested I am pretty much in the kenotic camp that he does not draw on his divinity while on earth). Beyond that, and unlike all of us, Jesus is also TRULY human. Coming to faith is a journey toward being truly human, final transformation will be ‘we will be like him’.

In this chapter I am seeking to establish (from my bias) that humanity is not evil but fallen. What is fallen can be redeemed, what is evil needs to be judged. Hence all behaviour that humanises is ‘Godly’ behaviour. dehumanisation is the work of the demonic. So sadly we can do ‘Christian’ things in a way that dehumanises and therefore does not resonate with godly behaviour. And by way of contrast, even someone who expresses no faith, can do genuine good, godly acts.

Where this is going is not in a therefore ‘all are saved’ direction. I want to take it in a value of human life; and beyond that the ‘ekklesia’ (this will be volume 2) is responsible to create a shape where the good that is in people comes through and the bad held back. Of course if we have a Gospel that is but if people are bad they need salvation and we don’t reach those who are ‘good’. For me that is a challenge to the gospel we believe and present.

This chapter is to bridge us into the next ones – Judas comes first, the disciple who is very like us, but whose human weakness was exploited. Then to Peter and with both of those disciples how their view of the Messiah is what messed them up. Our tendency is to be always on hand to be there to help Jesus out. Good motivation!! However, gets us in trouble every time. Passion + (our) vision of the kingdom = trouble.

Humanising the divine

Well what strange days indeed. We have just entered our second week of being allowed out for an hour a day – FREEDOM, after for us 9 weeks inside. But I think hugely rich days, and we continue to pray for the reset that is over-due. In it all there are a few subtle re-definitions coming to the surface. Essential work being one of those. (I have suggested that Paul was clear that if one does not work then one does not deserve to eat… our ‘we can monetise everything’ world has changed the text to ‘if one does not earn money’…. thus distorting any theology of work.)

There are places and times that are leverage points – the wider effect is greater in those places and at those times than we have previously experienced, finding that we shifted more than we anticipated. This is such a time. And no, this is not just going to disappear, indeed I have been saying this time is more of a sign than a simple reality as I consider 2022 being when there will be a combination of situations that will converge at the same time. Now is real, only too real, but at the same time it is a sign; signs point somewhere; it is the alarm, and the alarm is to wake us up into a new reality.

We have had to make practical shifts but the number of connections, particularly via ‘zoom’ has increased with a mix of old and totally new connections. At the same time I have been writing. In the mid-90s I coincidentally met Mark Dupont who did not know me from a bar of soap and immediately said ‘books, books, books… I see a stream of books.’ Since that encounter I went on to write 6 books, with chapters in some other, and translations into 4 languages. That was that era.

I have now entered the final phase of my life (no death wish I can assure you!). The final phase is to be the least public, but most effective, and I would love it to rock on for at least another 30 years. It probably needs to last that long as it would be nice to at least achieve a level of maturity that one might expect in a 21 year old. (Hey I was 21 once and was achieving a level of maturity back then that was frightening; the last years have been about growing down to the level of immaturity that I really have.)

A few years back I met Mark again, and again before there was any ‘hello’ he said ‘writing, writing, keep on writing… there is more to come.’

I have thought about that many times since. Books are strange, they are strange for an author as they catch something in time. ‘I wrote this back then because that is where I was, but it is in print so cannot change the text.’ Also strange because there is a practical element of how one publishes and sells. I suspect if I were to publish I could move around 150 -200 (such impressive influence!). So I have wrestled with the what, how questions.

I have no idea if I have answered the what and how, but I have completed what I grandiosely have called volume 1 and have entitled it ‘Humanising the Divine’. How, and whether I publish I am not sure, but on Sunday I will begin with a zoom to 6 other people where we will go weekly through a chapter.

I am beginning with a high view of humanity, although clearly acknowledging that God is not simply a bigger version of us. There is an otherness in God, but humanity carries the image of God; Jesus came in human form, and retains that; the hope is for the resurrection of the body not some spiritualised life after death.

Theology’s norm is to start with the doctrine of God (after all it is THEOlogy), while having a logic to the order also starts with what we do not know. Quickly the omni- words kick in. Then down the line comes the anthropological section and the human race is put in their place. Sin with all its wonderful words, often with ‘original sin’ right bang in the centre.

I am not suggesting the above is illegitimate, simply that is not the lens that I have had or used these past years. There is such a need to draw a distinction between ‘evil’ and ‘fallen’. Even creation is fallen, but has a voice calling out for the right rhythms – there has been a response to that voice in this crisis. Humanity too!

I will eventually post what I have written on these pages, and if the guinea pigs survive and find it moderately helpful I will look to multiply the zoom calls. Oh… and now I am on volume 2 so later today will be pushing those keys once again.

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