Back in the day

It is often assumed that any view of the cross must have at the centre the idea that the human race is to be punished, Jesus took the punishment, and so we go free (penal substitution). It works as an explanation though it raises serious questions if it is not nuanced extremely well about the inter-relationship of God (the Father) and Jesus (the Son). At worst it gives us a loving Son and a more-than-overbearing Father; a loving Son and a holy God who cannot look on sin, who turned his face away from his Son, abandoning him on the cross (thus ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me’). It divides the Trinity. Not only do I distance myself from such views, even the more nuanced ones, it might come as a surprise that the penal substitionary view is not the most ancient view – unless one ascribes it to the pages of the New Testament itself.

The two oldest views (developed soon after the NT period) seem to be what could be termed ‘Recapitulation‘ and ‘Christus Victor‘ (the defeat of the powers, though that term really owes itself to a certain Swedish Lutheran theologian / bishop who published a book with that title in 1930). Recapitulation was simply that Jesus assumed every aspect of humanity, ‘retraced’ the steps of Adam, so he redeemed what was lost, and sin was killed in the Son. There is a great emphasis on the reality of the humanity of Jesus, and also on the nature of two humanities – one in Adam and one in Jesus. The conquering of death for all is essential.

With Christus Victor we see how they wrestled with the idea of ransom. For those who suggested the ransom was paid to Satan, there was an acknowledgement that the devil had certain legitimate claims over humanity. The debt is paid for the release of humanity, and now with Jesus in his grasp the overwhelming goodness and holiness of Jesus just proved too much to hold and the devil having already lost the hold over humanity just could not hold on to Jesus – hence salvation for humanity and resurrection for Jesus.

In neither of the above views – which I consider historically are the two most ancient strands – are there any discussion of Christ appeasing the Father nor of the Father punishing the Son. Those discussions come later.

A big shift takes place with a certain Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm (1033-1109) who using the framework of his day put forward the ‘debt’ that is owed due to the universal failure to honour God, to pay him what is his due. The debt is paid by the one who honoured God, all offence is removed. The culture of the day is the background, with landlords and serfs, and in the case of God a supreme king. The debt is one that can never be paid. With Anselm there is a shift, and a further shift comes as the culture moves on to the time of the Reformation. Debt language can continue but justice and guilt become central. The innocent one dies in the place of the guilty, so the guilty go free. This shift has essentially made this, or a modified version of this, the central understanding.

As I consider further aspects in future posts here are a few thoughts:

  • Does God need appeasing? Can God not forgive without someone (Jesus) standing in the gap? Is forgiveness from God to be understood along the same lines as we understand forgiveness? In one of my books I suggest that ‘wrath’ when applied to God is righteous in Scripture, but we do not find such a description of human anger – thus we should not look to human anger to help us understand what the Bible means when it talks of the ‘wrath of God’. Likewise with forgiveness… Forgiveness at a human level is ‘I choose to let the offence (and therefore the person) go’, ‘You owe me nothing’. If we can do that without asking for recompense, why can God not do that… And if forgiveness is to ‘let someone go’ (the Greek being also a term used for example of untying a ship to let her sail) what is being forgiven, from what are we being untied? Untied from God and the need to pay back… or untied elsewhere?
  • Assuming we want to avoid an automatic Universalism, we will find it harder to do with the concept of a payment, or any ‘in the place of humanity’ as they seem to me the most likely follow through. If it is ‘the cross’ plus repentance in what sense is it ‘the debt paid in full’? Of course there are universalistic texts and one might be happy with that understanding. The solution of a ‘only died for the elect’ of course does not do it for me… hence I find debt payment, universal guilt condemnation not to wash.
  • Any view of the cross must take seriously the unified work of the Trinity. ‘God was in Christ‘ Paul says… God is not apart from Christ, and the work was one of restoration, for ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’. The cross does not reconcile God to the world, it does not change God (wrath to acceptance) but it changes the world. It restores a broken relationship, it restores all breaches, hence the ‘restoration of all things’ is the hope. In Genesis the issues are relational breakdown and alienation.
  • And finally (but far from the final post) the cross will never be worked out theoretically. Maybe the men are not seen at the final scenes of the death of Jesus (other than one… who was characterised by love) because it is the heart, the emotions rather than the head and logic that will grasp what takes place. That for me is sure, for something of heaven and earth meet, history and new creation, humanity and divinity all meet there.

Our neighbourhood

Unbelievably it is 3 years ago that we were able to get an apartment in Madrid. Three whole years. I was looking at the picture that is on my FaceBook page (the page I ‘never’ look at) and here follows a little explanation (Plaza San Martin). Since 2012 we have always stayed (AirBnB) on that side of Madrid, nearly always in the ‘Lavapies’ barrio, at the bottom of the hill it (literally) means the place of washing feet. It has always been a place that has drawn the immigrants (seems appropriate as that is who we are to Madrid and to Spain), a challenging place where drugs are easily available, the drugs scene run in the main by Chinese mafia with foot soldiers often drawn from the African community. Since 2012 until 2018 we have (all-but) prayer walked every street of the barrio. Gentrification is setting in – the good side it can ‘lift’ a community, the down side of course is that people are squeezed out. We have tried to use the apartment as gift when we are not there, and I am always amazed at how within our hands there will always be something we can do that is small but sows into a future. The ultimate small is the ‘container’ for glory in the Bethlehem context that we mark at this time of year.

Land is interesting. It is the container for the corporate memory, hence can resist renewal or can be very open. Lavapies… a great history.

Quite a crowd, with the photograph taken in 1977 and of a funeral cortege in our area. In January, seemingly in order to provoke a reaction so that the military would have to step in and reverse the democratic process post-Franco, three gunmen entered a lawyers’ office and killed five of those present. However, it appears that the desired result did not take place. On the day of the funeral the response called for from those who identified with the victims was one of responding in silence and not to participate in any violence. As can be seen a crowd of some 100,000 gathered, without any physical retaliation. It is said that rather than reverse the democratic process it was a major catalyst in moving it forward.

Right in the centre of the area (Anton Martin) is this memorial to that event. The ‘hug’ says it all, and at the top of the plaque is a quote:

If the echo of their voice weakens, we will perish.

This is our area, and each time we walk past that memorial it is indeed a memory provoker. Beyond our memory that land has a record of it.

(Image by Tulimori – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

How many places are there that we can stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, those who had faith and those who did not, but they knew somehow that their responses were sowing for a future. Add to that a true apostolic vision, marked by long term patience aligned to consistent direction, and I am sure there are many geographic situations that are waiting for us nobodies to connect with.

Looking back… way back

When one is young looking back 20 years is such a long time ago. I had an email asking me for some reflections relating to a period of time 20+ years ago. For me ‘a long time back’ so that helps me live out another day of fantasy. I am really still ever so young.

It was interesting though to respond, as for me (and also Gayle) that era was so formative of who we are. It gave me a fresh appreciation of how God can transform a life, the reality of the Spirit, that fire spreads etc. Deeply appreciative, and of course (like everyone else) I see where I am today as a result of the path(s) that I have been led on. Maybe a little (and remember ‘little’ is a small word) more humble that suggests that if I have any (hope ‘any’ is not a small word) integrity it is the path I have been led on, without suggesting it is THE path. Jesus is the way, but the path seems to be uniquely honed for each person (not to be read as all paths lead to God… I am talking about one’s life).

I think there were expressions back in that day that could not really go further because they were not multi-racial nor multi-cultural. There is something of fullness that can only come through with a greater ethnic, generational and gender expression. But beyond that there were expressions that had to come to an end, had to come to an end as the post-Christian and post-Christendom (and pre-Christian) era demands that.

Twenty plus years ago, any view of the ‘afar off’ was to see them as those who needed to join ‘us’ or ‘our children’. The ‘afar off’ though are to be joined by ‘us’ (and for ‘us’ who can’t make the journey, by ‘our children’). (Illustrated as per Peter and Cornelius). The catalytic nature of 20+ years ago opens everything up for where we are now in the West. An increasing exhalation of the breath of God. It will be felt in the vicinity of where it is being experienced.

History teaches and we learn; history holds us back and prevents us seeing what we have never seen. History is a foundation; history prevents development.

The last paragraph can be deleted. It is our response to history that is determinative.

A ‘decrease so that there might be an increase’ has to be embraced willingly. When there is a decrease but not embraced willingly some debris is left in the path and it is more difficult for what should appear that is ‘greater’. Not greater by status but ‘greater distance’ as in beyond.

Twenty plus years ago. Deeply appreciative. Twenty more years – full of anticipation.

By the end of the year!

Friday the Spanish parliament passed a very important vote to exhume Franco’s body from the Valley of the Fallen. (For the objection to this for example: The Guardian.) In 2015 we prayed with Roger and Sue Mitchell at the Valley of the Fallen at at his tomb. Thursday this week past Gayle and I went to the house where he was born. We had believed there still was unfinished business… and Friday the vote!

We have realised of late that in a number of issues that we have given a good push to that we have to finish them, the ‘finishing straight’ can hold the biggest resistance. Tomorrow we will be in Madrid to put a push in prayer behind the move.

We have looked for this year to bring a few things through to a completion. The constitution was signed at the end of 1978 – 40 years ago. Although it was a remarkable constitution to move Spain to democracy, it also needs to be loosened up. At the end of Franco he proclaimed that ‘all things are tied up, well tied up’. So… A time to untie we think.

These past 2 weeks we have been off road – without electricity, only very occasional internet. So getting home (Thursday?) will be great, but also the slow process of working through emails. For those who have written and there has been no reply… either an apology or the gift of patience!!

I will probably put up in a few days some reflections. Particularly with reference to Burgos and to Ferrol. Two major cities that we spent time in.

We have travelled exclusively in the north of Spain. It is our break, but also to get our feet in the land, hence the off road camping. We are also in the process of getting sight on the next 30 years… Might not have another 30 years, but there are those who died in faith whose voice still speaks, and maybe there are those who are alive whose voice does not speak any more. So seems faith is important.


Post PermaLink

Can we see in colour?

I have referred to an open vision that someone sent us – along with others – many, many months before the UK referendum on EU membership. In it she saw, and no one was even close to predicting this at the time, that a hand would come and withdraw the UK from the map of Europe. The result was that light and colour drained out of Europe, she saw it going down something like a hole in the south of France. We did endeavour, with those she sent the vision to, to close the hole by travelling there some two years ago.

I appreciate that for those within the UK there is divided opinion on the merits of the (less than perfect!) EU. I voted to remain as an embracing of the continent has always seemed very important to me spiritually – and of course one could vote ‘leave’ and still hold the importance of being together relationally. I also voted that way as I see NO reason from Scripture to suggest the evil beast of Europe – if only it was that easy!! The beast is a lot more subtle and more widespread than anything Brussels could ever compete with. Anyway enough of that and back to the vision…

In these past weeks I have been thinking about what a draining of colour would mean, and realised that colour is diversity. In the diversity of the light spectrum came the promise of God’s commitment to the world. In the diversity of the oft-four times repeated (and varied) phrase in Revelation: ‘every tongue, tribe, peoples and nation’ we find that God is glorified.

The history books that will be written of this period of time will I suspect reflect on a battle for the future of Europe and its identity. Either the future could be more diverse (with the wonderful challenges presented by that) or there could be a shutting down and an exclusion of what looks different. Colour or monochrome?

I think it is very rare that God says, close the door!! It seems he usually says open the door and make room. To do so necessitates that we come out from under the fear narrative. Many in Germany have done just that and we hear wonderful reports of those who have fled there, with no faith or with faith in a God other than the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus, who have come to faith. It would not be the first time in history that God has revealed himself to those fleeing imperial power.

While reflecting on the vision it becomes apparent that the response of the UK is very important. More important than a referendum on the EU, important as that was and is proving to be, is the willingness to embrace at a deep level diversity. Easier said than done, but an open heart to travelling unknown paths is a starting point.

It is interesting living life in a land that is not one’s birth land. I cannot claim to understand being an immigrant – I am probably a hypocritical one. (Hypocrite was ‘actor’ in Greek.) Gayle and I have privileges. we can live here legitimately. We are not in fear of someone banging on the door and we are deported – and even if we were we are not being sent back to a dangerous situation. We refuse to live as ‘ex-pats’. We are immigrants. I was told by one of my more honest neighbours recently – so you have lived here 10 years and your Spanish is a disgrace (OUCH!). We are immigrants, but only slightly on the outside. I guess all we can do is continue at the hypocritical (acting) level and maybe we will so get into the character that we become more genuine. We can only give what we have and what our situation allows us. That is our very small contribution into the plea for colour to be present in Europe.

Our contribution is small – all our contributions are small, but maybe in the context of the future of Europe those living in the UK might just have a big say. Bring on the colour!!


Post PermaLink

Don’t forget Badajoz!

In our travels around Spain this year, covering all-but 5000 miles, to pray into the Muslim expulsions we planned the end of the travels to be in Gibraltar being the point of entry in 711AD. We realised that our focus would be much wider than that, and focused a lot on economic issues. Maybe the exposure of the ‘Paradise Papers’ have some relationship to that time; maybe the continual flushing out of corruption in Spain (where did 40billion euros of public money disappear?); maybe finally the acknowledgement that M. Rajoy in the Caja B (illegal / supposedly hidden) accounts of the government is indeed Mariano Rajoy – though the judge who was clear on this has subsequently been replaced…!!!!

While preparing for the final trip in Gibraltar we were in the most southerly point of Continental Europe (Tarifa). Liminal places (and experiences) are very key and while there I had a dream that was extremely helpful and full of insight. One part of it though contained a dialogue with a \’neighbour\’ who eventually said he understood what we were doing, but pleaded that we did not forget Badajoz. Badajoz is in the West of Spain very near the Portuguese border, and although orignally we had no plans to go there, we felt obligated to include the city in our journey.

We were probably not quite prepared for what we found there. We were hit very hard with the \’forgotten\’ state of the city. There had been much blood shed in the city, one of the most recent being in the Civil War when some 4000 children, women and men (all unarmed) were taken to the bullring and slaughtered. Since then a new city building has been built there with a focus on the arts. Outside is a sculpture that was placed there to honour those who were slaughtered. There is no plaque on the sculpture, nothing to indicate what it was. I even asked someone who was walking there dog if he knew what it was, and he only vaguely realised there was something there, but confessed he did not know. When the sculpture was initiated there was a gathering of families who had lost people in that event. It was unveiled with no speech, nor acknowledgement of what had taken place. Forgotten…

We do not think we have been to a more forgotten place. We prayed, wine on ground… left heavy.

This week Pablo Iglesias has been in the same place. He has been speaking in the building (Palacio de Congresos). He is calling for the memory to be honoured, that Badajoz will not be forgotten. For us very moving to see and hear. We called for singers to sing and push back the spirit of death and forgetfulness. Pablo’s first thanks to the artists – to the singers.

Pablo professes no faith in God, though indicated that his grandfather who grew up in Extremadura would have really like the current pope.

Moving… also a provocation to us. Keep pushing.

Also so in line with what we believe. The body of Christ must open the way, the ones stepping in might not be those who identify with the body of Christ. The \’priesthood\’ theme is so central in this phase.

A footnote: increasingly we are looking at the so-called years of transition, 1975-78, and the need to engage with the centre to get a shift for the land as a whole. A privilege but also battle.


Post PermaLink

This is what we are up to

2017-03-19 14:30:37

This post is a kind of an update as to our main focus. I will try to make it short, but not likely to succeed!

The big focus for us now is the pull to pray into the ReConquista. The ReConquista is the description given to the period of history in Spain when the Moors (Muslims) were finally driven out and Spain / Portugal were reconquered for ‘Christianity’. We have heard on the street when listening to guides the shorthand description of: ‘We were Muslims, now we are Christians.’ That is quite a worldview!!

We have done some prayer work into the expulsion of the Jews (the Shephardic Jews both of the OT and of more recent history). We have also been deeply encouraged by those who have done so over years. We are sure that the shift in response from the Spanish government has been as a result. The government will now give back Spanish citizenship to those who are genuinely of Shephardic descent. It is often not too difficult for Christians to repent for what has been done to Jews in terms of abuse. There is both a right connection (‘because of the patriarchs’) and also at times a false connection (confusion over the centrality of Jesus), but the result is repentance and for that we are grateful.

But repentance into Islamic history? That is another aspect all-together.

The ReConquista was the re-conquering of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for the Christian rulers and the driving of the Moorish (Islamic) kingdom out of the land. It began in the north and over centuries it eventually completed its goal when the final stronghold of Granada fell in 1492. Into that scenario why repent?

Repentance does not mean that we want to turn the clock back and see Islamic rule restored!!! It is crazy to write that but better be clear than leave any doubts! But neither are we looking for some kind of ‘christianized’ rule, the sad effects of the Constantinian paradigm. The alternative to Sharia law is not some form of Christianised law, indeed we consider the root to the Islamic spirit is Christendom.

The original taking of Spain by Islam occurred in 7 short years in the 8th century with a smallish Islamic invasion taking place through Gibraltar. (Gibraltar – a physical reason for the entry there but also this is contested land spiritually.) Generally speaking, though, the Islamic rule was benevolent. Christians and Jews alongside the Muslims were allowed to co-habit and work together. The level of the arts and education was high. A huge question we have is:

The ReConquista (the ReConquering of Spain)… but for what?

We do not for one minute suggest that the Islamic rule was good and the Christianised rule that replaced it was worse. The issue is that what was done in the name of Jesus carries such weight and ‘we’ have to take responsibility for that. The ReConquista had as its vision that of militarily restoring the lost lands to their version of Christianity all the way back to Jerusalem. We consider that vision to be deeply anti-Christian.

We also consider now is the time for the push and it will entail us getting on the road visiting some of the key places. If we do not do this then the land is very vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We consider that where there is a Christian push to see Islamic people as the enemy and dehumanise them that the effect is not to strengthen defences against terrorism but to seriously weaken them. In recent months Dayesh have released videos particularly featuring Cordoba and Granada with the warning that they are coming for their lost lands. The Western end of the Islamic world was once Spain, the Eastern centering in Constantinople.

1492 – quite a year!!!!

This year saw:

  • the fall of Granada,
  • the edict for all Jews to convert or be exiled (and if not persecuted), and
  • Christopher Columbus sailed off to the New World to conquer it for King and Queen, pope and for the power that appointed them to rule: God and his sovereign king, Jesus. That mission to the new world was accompanied by those who proclaimed the sovereignty of Spanish royalty and the one true God. Proclaimed in the Spanish language those who were ‘privileged’ to hear the message were given the opportunity to respond! When they did not respond the conquerors were then free to do whatever they needed to to extend the boundaries of both the Spanish domain and the domain of Christendom.

There are times in history that are ‘full’. Obviously the coming of Christ was at the fullness of times. A threefold cord as we have discovered in 1492 puts that year truly on the radar. The possibility of the effects of praying into that culmination seem amazing.

We have prayed into the issue of Columbus day and have been glad to see the greater level of unrest that has been visible since. We were able 18 months ago (probably under the watchful eyes of security cameras) to place a piece of art, calling for a shift on the issue, right under the largest Spanish flag in Madrid in Columbus Square on the eve of the large military parade that passes through there. We did not understand the link of the three fold cord of 1492 back then.

Then into the mix… last year we travelled through the Celtic lands of Asturias and into Galicia. So wonderful to get to the furthest north point of Spain and then the most westerly point of mainland Spain on that journey. While travelling through the land Gayle was very stirred (her Celtic blood!!) with the Celts and Christianity. ‘They have been here’, she would say. No concrete evidence, such as Celtic crosses or the like, but her conviction persisted. The land is Celtic – and for the historians the concensus is that the Celts came to the lands of Britain up through Spain.

Making some enquiries about the presence of Celtic Christianity has opened up something incredible. Well that can be the next post…


Post PermaLink

The Sykes-Picot agreement

Well if you know the content from the title you have one over on me. I read this article this morning by Giles Fraser (‘loose canon’, of ex-St. Paul’s Cathedral fame) in the Guardian that explains all. There is never a sufficient explanation for evil (‘the mystery of evil’) but there are factors that can be tracked in terms of what is sown in one generation producing fruit in subsequent generations.

Fraser’s last paragraph hits things pretty straight on:

Yes, there is much more to Isis than the desire to undo the century-long effects of British and French colonialism. But that’s a key goal. And if Iraq ends up splitting into a Kurdish, a Shia and a Sunni bit, and if Syria ends up splitting with an Alawite strip along the coast, and a Sunni bit further east, then Islamic State may end up getting precisely what its name proclaims, even after it has been defeated. These new borders will be based on ethnicity and religion rather than 100-year-old imperial design. And, this time, I don’t think western intervention can stop it.

‘Imperial design’ are strong words. Yet this is the nature of empire. The myth that all who comply will benefit, but the reality that the few at the top shape what is to be, promising benefits, but with the real benefits flowing back to the centre / top.

My guess is little real (identificational) repentance has been undertaken in the situation regarding the stitch up (betrayal) by the imperial powers of the day. And it remains a critical issue with regard to the gospel as to whether the problem is that we have had bad people at the top and all we need is to work it so that we have good people (the born again ones) at the top, or we have a fundamental issue that is contra the gospel that has to be opposed: imperial power whether the emperors are good or bad. My vote is strongly with those in the latter camp.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves (Lk 22:24-27).

I suggest there will be a number of tracks that will run and run. IS / Dayesh might well become a lesser player in the immediate years ahead, but that is to misunderstand what is going on. An organisation can rise but unless there is something deeper that is healed the ‘starfish’ phenomenon will continue. And parallel to the rise of all despotic rule, God will continue to answer prayer for transformation and the increase of his kingdom. The result of this will be (theological) debate with regard to the gospel but the real issue will be over the fruit of the gospel – a people who rule top down or serve without asking for recognition. We can disagree over theological details but over the fruit we have to be clear.”,”post_title”: “The Sykes-Picot agreement”,”post_category”: 0,”post_excerpt”: “Well if you know the content from the title you have one over on me. I read an article this morning by Giles Fraser that explains all. There is never a sufficient explanation for evil (‘the mystery of evil’) but there are factors that can be tracked in terms of what is sown in one generation producing fruit in subsequent generations.


Post PermaLink