Jews, Pagans, Sceptics and Emperors: Public Theology as Christian Apologetics

Professor Elaine Graham, of the University of Chester is leading the next Faith and Public Policy event that takes place at Westminster Abbey.  My PhD Supervisor Anna Rowlands, directs these events.

Wednesday 16th January 2013
Professor Elaine Graham, University of Chester
Title: “Jews, Pagans, Sceptics and Emperors: Public Theology as Christian Apologetics”
Elaine L Graham is the Grosvenor Research Professor at the University of Chester. She was until October 2009 the Samuel Ferguson Professor of Social and Pastoral Theology at the University of Manchester. Elaine has a continuing interest in urban theology and the contribution of faith-based organizations to civil society. She was a member of the Commission on Urban Life and Faith, whose report was published as Faithful Cities: a Call for Celebration, Vision and Justice (2006). She collaborated with Bishop Stephen Lowe on a book entitled What Makes a Good City? Public Theology and the Urban Church (2009). Her current work is towards a book entitled: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Public Theology in a Post-Secular Age (SCM, 2013).

The Seminar is 12.30-2pm with lunch, as usual and if attending you will need to confirm a place by emailing catherine.butler@westminster-abbey.org.

Top 12 from 2012: Vineyard Churches UK resources

The most read, watched and listened to resources of the year from Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland here.

Stories we tell each other: Catechism and Consumer Liturgies

I’ve talked and written about how consumer life has practices and habits that situate and train us into ways of doing life.  Consumerism can be understood as religious practices around ways of life, like liturgy.  Two chapters in Church in the Present Tense by me outline some of the thinking and practices from our church community in response to that.

Within those chapters I suggest the need for a counter training that worship is meant to produce.  Church is a community to train us to live in the world rightly, deeply and to love it more fully.

Consumerism has it’s own question and answer catechism.  When people get together and share about life, the measures of life, and what life is about, there is often a familiar ping pong about what money was spent on what and why.  Cars, holidays, experiences, houses, relationships etc are measured by a liturgical conversation over drinks and food.  Consumerism has us repeat it’s values and beliefs in the stories we tell to each other, before we go and practice them again.

Christians have had Catechism as part of their worship practices, to repeat to each other in community Gospel stories and values.  That is something my evangelical stream as largely lost.

Most experiences of Christianity are now instrumentalist by consumerism.  All to often worship is reduced to felt need occasional interactions with worship in order to get something else from life; instead of a regular deep experience with others of brining of life in contact with the Gospel.

In trying to extend the idea of worship as training, and liturgical formation I’ve wanted to offer a proper Catechism at our church.  My tradition doesn’t have one to draw on, so where to start?  

Thankfully, Tim Keller at Redeemer has distilled some of the greatest Catechisms into a 52 week online/phone app version.

A simple idea to engage with the technology in the hands of so many of my church community (with so many phones and tablets having just arrived in Christmas stockings).  This Catechism weekly reviews key beliefs of the Christian faith, through Q&A, with the ability to undertake it with family and friends.

So I’m inviting my church community to join in this for a year together, and spend time as families and then time together over meals after sunday services to review what we have been learning.

My hope is for those of us undertaking this, that our next year will have been spent measuring and assessing life over meals around the Gospel and Kingdom, instead of consumer dreams and aspirations.

We don’t invite Jesus into our lives, he invites us into his

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(The post below was written by me for the Advent series led by Christine Sine, ‘What are we waiting for?’)

After the first temple is built by Solomon and on the day of it’s dedication by him, Solomon declares, ‘Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.’ (1 Kings 8:27). The absurdity that God could fit into the universe let alone a temple is immediately revealed.

Yet the Advent hope of Christmas is that God has located himself in relationship and proximity to us, such that (John 1:14) ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood’.

If you are anything like me, I find that my life doesn’t fit into my own life, let alone the creator of the universe moving in. Too often He is crowded out and left to fit in when I remember Him, need something from him, am in trouble or worried about others. But most of the time, it seems He is squeezed out of my life and neighbourhood.

I’ve also noticed something about the Advent stories, that the people in them have lives that are at least as ‘over-full’ as mine. So how does Jesus move into their neighbourhood and how might he move into my overpacked life?

Too often we think of inviting Jesus into our lives, the Christian cliche of thinking that we open our lives and let Jesus in, ask him in, when we can remember to. The problem, like the people in the Advent story is that he just doesn’t fit. Something else seems to take place in Advent, as Jesus moves into the neighbourhood and invites people into his life, rather dramatically.

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310 films from 2012 in one amazing mash up.  Full list of the films here.

Tags:2012/

Which event inspired the world’s most popular Tweet?

Here are the top two Tweets that generated the most Retweets for the year, plus honorable mentions for a few other Tweets that caught attention around the world.

Tags:Twitter/

The holy spirit in the world today - capturing the imagination of the culture

I so want to go to this event, but am away these dates.  A conference on the Holy Spirit and Mission by St Mellitus/HTB.

I hope they record the event and have papers available.  Conference details are here.

Reimagining the Gospel for Evangelicals in an Environmental Age

My friend Russ Pierson has written this great article that comes from his experience, and research about Evangelicals and the Environment.

If like most Christians you care about the environment but wonder why doing something about it features so little in our lives day to day, check out and have a conversation with him.

I could live without Christmas

Just writing this blog post will put me at odds with my family and friends, some who already accuse me of being a humbug.

I love advent, the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, and would love my year to take the shape of the remembrance of that.  And yes I have heard many times the suggestion that Christmas can be about Jesus.

But it’s not for most people where I live, and seems to have very little to do with Him.  It’s something that feels forced on me every year, with so many things we ‘have’ to do.  I watch so many friends spend money they don’t have on credit cards and overdrafts and struggle to pay them off each year, just because ‘it’s Christmas’.*

And yes, as I have admitted to friends when they asked me, some awful things did happen to me at Christmas time when I was growing up, and no I don’t want therapy/prayer for Christmas :-).  I’ve had people genuinely suggest I need prayer and ministry to embrace Christmas, which makes me want to resist the celebration of Christmas all the more.

So I will celebrate Advent with all my heart.  And I will make the most of time off work, Christmas TV, and time with my family for sure.  But if Christmas was cancelled I don’t think I would miss it at all.  

*(Christmas is the time when the UK will spend £20bn with most of that in new consumer debt. About £1.6bn of this will be spent on food and drink alone. We will cook over 10m turkeys, at an estimated cost of £400m.  We will also put up 7.5m Christmas trees, costing £245m.   Hard to get our heads around those numbers, but that is people in the UK spending 4 times the money needed to rebuild all the countries affected by the Asian Tsunami.)

Why do a doctor of ministry degree?

Fo

Great review of the Global Leadership Perspectives D.Min from outgoing Student Andy Campbell.  Andy gives you a taste of his course and the possible experience of a Doctor of Ministry Degree.

Filter Bubbles: As google gives us all increasingly the same stuff from our searches, we are missing out on the important stuff of life.

"Here’s the challenge: as more and more people discover news and content through Facebook-like personalized feeds, the stuff that really matters falls out of the picture. In the Darwinian environment of the hyper-relevant news feed, content about issues like homelessness or climate change can’t compete with goofy viral videos, celebrity news, and kittens. The public sphere falls out of view. And that matters, because while we can lose sight of our common problems, they don’t lose sight of us."  Eli Pariser

How I feel when my PhD supervisor says nice things to me.
* Cartoon taken from PhD Comics.

How I feel when my PhD supervisor says nice things to me.

* Cartoon taken from PhD Comics.

Tags:PhD/

Come and See: Church in the Congregation

I spent the weekend speaking to a couple of hundred Vineyard Church leaders and pastors from the North of England.

The theme and focus was to help leaders think about whether their church is one to which people can easily be invited - “come and see” - and to equip people to actually leave the building and share their faith in their local communities and the market place - “go and tell”.

I was tasked with talking about the ‘come and see’.  I made two sessions the first about the false dichotomy between the congregation and the sharing of faith with others, and then about the nature of worship for formation and evangelism.

I also spoke at the Leeds Vineyard Church, about the power of the gospel for transformation, related to these other talks. The talk was titled, ‘finding myself in the gospel’.

As I promised everyone over the weekend, my talk notes and audio from the Saturday and Sunday are all here online.  The audio is recored on my iPhone so not that great.  If I get the proper recordings I’ll put them online as replacements.

Game theory suggests current climate negotiations won’t avert catastrophe

After my last post, interesting article sent to me by a friend, using game theory that reveals something about human nature.

It seems that even after agreeing to all contribute to avoid catastrophe, human nature got the better of participants, and they protected themselves.

Whilst the experiment concluded;

'Tests with real people confirmed an inability to resist temptation: The players proposed that everyone pay enough to make catastrophe unlikely, but then they pledged a bit less than that. And when it came time to pony up, they contributed far less still. Every time, the planet broiled.'

Christians have an understanding of that human nature, of why we are intrinsically bent on pursuing our own desires above all else.  Yet all too often Christians desire God as a support to those desires.

Desiring God should lead us to consuming the world in the way God would have us.  Learning to love and use the world rightly.

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trying to make safe spaces for diverse and healthy conversations about church, culture, mission, theology and motorbikes

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